I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING


Pretend you want to be a writer.

You have a great idea for a story and you've begun to bang it out on your computer.

But you have some questions.

How do I publish my story once it's complete? Where do I publish it? Should I just do an eBook or should I do a physical copy as well? How do I format it? Where can I get a cover? Do I need an editor? How much will all this cost me? Can I make some money off of this? How much could I make? Could I make a career out of writing? How do I make a career out of writing? Do I need a blog? What about just a basic website? What do I need on my website? Can I use Facebook, Twitter, etc to sell my book? Can I quit my job? What font should I use? Should I hire someone to put it all together for me? If I have a blog what should I write about? Won't that take away from writing my book? Do I need to be out there in front of everyone all the time so they don't forget who I am? Would it be more worth my time to shop to a publisher? How do I shop to a publisher? What's a query letter? I never went to college, should I taking some writing classes?

And I've barely touched the tip of the iceberg.

What you'll find when you start asking questions is that there are a crap ton of people out there who have the answers.

Some folks will answer all of these questions for free. Some folks will want you to pay for their wisdom.

The problem is that there is so much out there from so many people, it's more than difficult to discover who you can trust and who is just trying to make a buck. And the folks who offer their advice for free, how do you know if they even know what they're talking about.

It can be enough to just walk away from the whole thing.

Myself, I turned on the flood gates and let all the free advice that was out there drown me. In time I've come to just ignore it all.

Of course what that means is that I have no idea what I'm doing.

Take this blog for example. First off, it's on Blogger. I see nothing wrong with that, but there are a lot of people out there that would love to line up so that they can tell me not to use Blogger. That I can't trust that all my content will still be out there in a year if Blogger (or any site like it) decides to just up and pull the plug on things.

Of course, I don't worry about all that. I have backups of everything.

But the fact is, I don't use Blogger for the ease of use (and after a number of years using it, I do find it easy and comfortable). No, I use Blogger because it is free, and free is all I can afford.

It's tough being a writer trying to get things done when you have no money. I once saw a post on one of the various social media sites in which a fellow self published writer degraded the book covers of other writers, stating that they obviously did their cover on the cheap and if so, why bother.

Well, I made the mistake of responding. I asked what is someone supposed to do if they want to write and self publish but just simply can't afford to hire someone to create a professional looking cover for them?

I was told at that point that anyone not willing to put some money toward their book is disrespecting their readers. I tried to explain that not everyone has money, even a little. Again I was told that you have to spend money to make money. If you can't buy a professional cover, if you can't hire a professional editor, then you shouldn't even be a writer.

And while there were a small handful of writers who offered suggestions for how a writer with no money could get these services through trade or other means, the resounding majority message was: No Money? Don't Bother. You Suck. Die.

Well, that certainly depressed me for a few days. I had a really hard time with it. And one question kept coming to me:

So, only people with money are allowed to pursue their dreams?

The answer I found was, in most cases, yes.

And yet, with that answer wedged firmly between the cockles of my heart, I decided that I didn't care. I was going to continue writing. When I finished a book I would put together the best looking cover I could. I was going to edit it myself, as best I could. I would put it out there and market it as best I could.

Maybe, just maybe, people would stumble across it and buy it. Maybe, just maybe, I could then take that money and put it into my writing.

Or maybe no one would buy it.

I had to face that possibility as well. And frankly, I decided that I didn't care.

Okay, that's not true. Of course I would care. It hurts when you spend time creating something from scratch, something that literally came straight out of your brain, something you put your heart into, something you love almost as much as your own family, and you put that creation out there into the world only to get nothing in return but silence.

So yes, I care. But I decided that I was just going to have to suck it up and put it out there anyway.

And so yeah, here's the thing, I have no idea what I'm doing. Am I using my blog the correct way? Is putting the first draft of Then a Penguin Walked In out there as I write it a mistake? Should I never say anything to anyone about what I'm writing until I have an actual book out there to sell?

I. DON'T. KNOW.

Because I can't spend any more time with the blogs and the podcasts and the tweets that tell me how to do do this and what I'm doing wrong.

9 Mistakes You Are Making With Your Author Blog. 10 Ways To Build Up You Mailing List. 6 Pronouns You Should Never Use.

I just can't.

All that stuff does is slow me down and make me doubt myself. And it is everywhere.

But here's the thing. I think it's great that that stuff is out there. I do think that there are some truly great people out there who have figured out how to make it and have decided to share their experiences with others. I thank them for that. Much respect.

But I think I'm just going to do my thing. I'm going to continue to shout into the hurricane of indie publishing, of indie marketing, of all the people out there with something to sell, and hope that someone hears me.

A few of you have. Thank you. You help make it all worth it.

But yeah. Again.

I have no idea what I'm doing.

WHY I LOVE THE DRAGONBONE CHAIR

If you are a regular reader then I'm sure you are already aware, but I'm in the middle of writing my first fantasy novel called Then a Penguin Walked In.

You weren't aware? Well, good news, you can read it while I write it, just go HERE.

Anyway, I have great love for the fantasy genre. In fact, you could say that I cut my reading teeth on fantasy. I mean, from age twelve all the way up through my early thirties, fantasy books were pretty much the only thing I read (apart from Douglas Adams, Stephen King, and the occasional Star Wars book).Yet, to be honest, I don't read much of it anymore.

But then, last summer, I began to get the kernels of an idea for Then a Penguin Walked In, and it got me all nostalgic for the books of my youth. So I've been trying, since then, to go back and read all those old books I'd read many times before. But here's the thing, I'd gotten rid of most of those books long, long ago. So it took a bit of doing, and the local library, to track some of this stuff down . . . and I've barely touched the surface.


Recently I lamented the loss of a trilogy I once owned called Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn by Tad Williams. I gave them away to a local library thinking that I'd just go check them out whenever I wanted to read the series again. Yet, when I tried just that not too long ago, I found that they no longer had them. There was much crying and gnashing of teeth at that point.

Then I set myself on the path of tracking these books down, starting with the first book in the trilogy, the Dragonbone Chair.

Sure, I could have just ordered the books on Amazon, but if you know me, if you are a regular reader, then you know that I have no disposable income. I can't buy things that aren't necessary for survival. Food, shelter, clothing. That's what my money goes to for the time being. So I had to get a hold of these books in some other fashion that did not include stealing.

Well, thanks to a deal through Audible, I have been able to borrow, and listen to, the Dragonbone Chair audio book.

It was everything I remember it being back in 1989 or 1990 (I can't recall when I bought the book originally, only that it was released on hardback in 1988 and I bought it on paperback).

Set in the fantasy world of Osten Ard, the Dragonbone Chair tells the tale of Simon, a scullery and servant who lives and works in the Hayholt, the castle of King John Presbyter. Simon is an orphan. His father died before he was born and his mother passed bringing him into the world. He was raised by Rachel the Dragon, Mistress of the chamber maids.

The King dies, leaving his oldest son, Elias, to rule.


Elias is a bit of a jerk, especially to his younger brother, Josua, who lost a hand trying to save Elias' wife. He failed, which is why Elias hates him.

But then Elias gets into some bad stuff, pushed there by his adviser, the creepy and hairless priest, Pryrates. Doors are opened that shouldn't be opened and everything goes to crap.

Simon has to leave the Hayholt. I'm not going to tell you why. It's a spoiler. But he escapes by the skin of his teeth and that's where the book really opens up.

I really enjoyed this book, each time I've read it. This was Game of Thrones before Game of Thrones was even a thing. Yes, I know that Game of Thrones is just the title of the first book in the series, A Song of Ice and Fire, but with the show, it's just easier to say Game of Thrones . . . yet I still typed all that out.

Sigh.

Anyway, I've read both series (well, full disclosure, I still have one book left in A Song of Ice and Fire), and I'll be honest with you, I prefer Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn.

In fact, according to Wikipedia:

Williams has also had an influence on other authors in his genre. His Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series was one of the works that inspired George R. R. Martin to write A Song of Ice and Fire. "I read Tad and was impressed by him, but the imitators that followed—well, fantasy got a bad rep for being very formulaic and ritual. And I read The Dragonbone Chair and said, ‘My god, they can do something with this form,’ and it's Tad doing it. It’s one of my favorite fantasy series." Martin incorporated a nod to Williams in A Game of Thrones with "House Willum": The only members of the house mentioned are Lord Willum and his two sons, Josua and Elyas, a reference to the royal brothers in The Dragonbone Chair.

The only problem I had with the Dragonbone Chair is that I'm well and fully pumped to read the next book, Stone of Farewell, but I've yet to be able to track it down. But I will, I hope. I mean, the Dragonbone Chair ends of a bit of a cliff hanger.

Still, I'm thankful to get what I did. The Dragonbone Chair is chock full of interesting and fleshed out characters and creatures. The world of Osten Ard feels like a real place, not one I'd like to visit, but real all the same.

And what about that amazing cover by Michael Whelan. He did all three covers to Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn and they all kick serious butt.

So thank you, Tad Williams. Thank you for the Dragonbone Chair. I loved it because it drew me in and made me care about the characters I was supposed to care about, and hate those I was supposed to hate. It also made me want to read more. Thankfully there is more to read.

Stone of Farewell is next, followed by To Green Angel Tower.

But it doesn't end there!

Just recently Tad Williams ventured back into the world of Osten Ard with four more books!

The Heart of What Was Lost - Released in January of 2017
The Witchwood Crown - Released June of 2017
Empire of Grass - Forthcoming
The Navigator`s Children - Forthcoming

So yeah, that's reason enough for excitement.



If you like the free content I put out there each week, and feel so inclined to throw a little bit of support my way, it would surely be appreciated.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com


BUY ME A COFFEE


I've set up shop at Ko-Fi.

What is Ko-Fi?

Per the site:

Ko-fi lets creators receive small donations from fans of their content. Anyone can create Ko-fi profile and share their personal Ko-fi link or embed a Ko-fi button on their site.

Each donation is roughly equal to the price of a coffee. We chose coffee as a friendly metaphor for showing support, but the money goes directly to the creator and they can spend it however they wish. You can think of Ko-fi as a digital tip-jar.

It's all free to use. All you need is a PayPal account to receive or send payments. We don't take any cut or get in the middle of the transaction, but note that PayPal may charge a small fee.

So hey, if you like the free content I'm putting out there, and you feel so inclined, buy me a coffee to help me on my way.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com



BATHROOM READING


Hello everyone.

My name is Steeven, and I read on the toilet.

And really, is that so wrong?

Is it?

Because if I go by the folks I interact with on a daily basis, it is.

People seem to have a real problem with it. In fact, some folks have a real problem with the bathroom in general. Why are they so uptight?

For example, I'm heading to the restroom the other day and I pass a fella in the hall, this is a guy I know, and he asks me:

"Where you off to?"

So I reply with:

"Gotta pee."

To which he gets all uncomfortable and says:

"OK, that was way too much information."

Really? Was it really too much information? Because I'm sure I could have gone into much more detail.

How should I reply when asked again so as not to make him uncomfortable?

Antiquing?

Slot car racing?

Origami lessons?

I don't know, I suppose I could have just said I was going to the restroom. Could it be possible that he had an issue with the word "pee"? I mean, it's the sixteenth letter in our alphabet. Does he go through life omitting that one letter in his correspondence?

Am I making more of this than I really should?

Because I don't think I am.

Frankly, I'm sick and tired of being ostracized for wanting to take those few moments in life where I get to be by myself to enjoy a good book. Why is that so wrong?

The fact of the matter is, people, we all poop. Each and every one of us. No one wants to talk about it, but we do it every day.

We don't seem to have a problem showing toilet paper commercials where someone pours a beaker of blue water onto a strip a toilet paper, then adds a roll of quarters atop it to show how strong their toilet paper is. Well guess what, folks. The quarters represent poop.

I actually have people burst into fits of giggles when they see me go into the restroom with a book under my arm. Yeah, okay, I mean, I might as well be holding a sign saying "I'm going to be a while!" But I like to read and the toilet in the perfect place to get some of that done.

And God forbid anyone see me carrying a large, hardback novel into the restroom.

I'm here, I read on the toilet, and I'm not going anywhere.

Get used to it.

#jointhemovement

Get it?

Photo by Hafidz Alifuddin from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/gender-88808/



If you like the free content I put out there each week, and feel so inclined to throw a little bit of support my way, it would surely be appreciated.

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THE BULLIES AND THE DEAD TURTLE


I want you to picture this. A kid, about ten years old. He's a bit chubby with red hear and a face full of freckles. He's gone to the local municipal swimming pool because he loves to swim. At one point, he needs to use the restroom: Number Two. He towels off and locks himself into a stall in the boys bathroom. He's right in the middle of letting nature take its course, when two teenagers enter the restroom. They know he's in there. They've come looking for him.

The teenagers pound on the door to the stall, the sound echoing out into infinity. They yell insults, threaten him, let him know in no uncertain terms that the moment he's finished, the moment he steps out of that stall, he's going to be beaten and kicked, bruised and bloodied.

I was that kid in the stall.

I'd escaped unscathed that day. I mean, the pool's office, where all the off duty life guards hung out, was literally right across the hall from the bathroom. And, as the entire facility had been made of concrete and nothing was insulated, the ruckus these two teenagers caused could be heard clearly from the other room. So in the end, I'd been rescued.

It had been a terrifying experience. Trapped in a bathroom stall, swim trunks around my ankles, wet, and highly vulnerable.

I don't know why they chose me that day. I'd done nothing to either of them. I don't even recall if I had known them previously. I'd just been this ten year old chubby kid with red hair and freckles. And I suppose for some bullies, that's all it takes.

Looking back, I can't picture their faces, and I don't remember their names. But, considering that since that day I've never been able to poop comfortably in a public restroom, and will avoid the act entirely when at all possible, they had clearly left an indelible impression upon my psyche.

Most of my childhood, to be honest, was relatively bully-free. I tended to get a long with most everyone. Granted, you can't grow up chubby without being the focus of many slurs against your character, but I've found that I can take most of what people give me verbally. Or at least never let them see that their words have any affect.

I was lucky. Luckier than some. But there were a few occasions in which I had been pestered by meatheads in a more violent way.

One of those times, of course, you've just read about.

The second occasion involved a dead turtle.


I grew up in a small town in Kansas, the type of community that boasted a population of 3,300 and growing. As a matter of fact, it stated just that on our sign. "3,300 And Growing", it said, yet the sign never changed. At least not in the 18 years I lived there.

My dad was an air traffic controller and by the time I could walk, we are afforded the opportunity to move to the newer side of town. So new in fact, that our house was pretty much one of the first on that side of the street, and until I was almost in high school, the couple of blocks across the street from us were nothing more than an empty lot full of trees with a little creek running through it.

We called this area across the street: "the Woods", and my brothers and I, along with all the other kids on our block, spent most of our free time in there building forts, playing war, digging large holes, filing in those large holes with dirt, and riding our bikes around the trail that ringed the place.

I have fond memories of the Woods. It was easy to get lost in there. I don’t mean lost as in “I can’t find my way home”, we’re only talking about two, maybe three city blocks. I only meant that even though my house was less than half a block away, I sometimes forgot that there was a whole town around us when we hung out in the Woods. To me, we were in some untamed wilderness where we could only rely on our wits, our skills as woodsmen, and our all-around manliness to survive.

But one day, when I was in the fourth grade, a couple of friends and I were making a trek through the Woods. We were going from my house to one of theirs, and the shortest route was through the Woods. We were traveling east to west. The western edge of the woods was an area we didn't spend a lot of time in. I can't recall why. Maybe we just always felt it was maybe a little too far from home. But again, we are taking about two to three blocks. Yet again, when you're a child, two to three blocks can be forever.

We were there, my two friends and I, moving through the western edge of the woods, a clear open lot just ahead of us, when we realized that something wasn't right. There had been rumors going around the neighborhood that a group of sixth graders had come to claim the Western Woods as their own. The story was that they had even built themselves a fort. We would quickly learn that the rumors were all too true.

We found ourselves standing in a clearing on the edge of a small creek that marked the boundary of the western end of the Woods. Further west, just on the other side of the creek and through a line of small trees and scrub was the empty lot. On the eastern bank of the creek was a large tree, one thick branch hanging out over the running water.

As we stood there, we noticed that someone had nailed boards to the trunk of the tree to form a crude ladder that lead into the lower branches where sections of plywood were secured, forming the walls of a rudimentary shelter. This would be the Sixth Grader's fort. But what made us stop was what we found in the creek beyond. A rather large, and very dead, snapping turtle that found the creek bed it's final resting place. The cause of death had been easy to deduce. A steel pole, about six feet long, four inches thick, and hallow, had been driven through the top of the turtle's shell, pinning it to the creek bed.

I'd seen dead fish, dead birds, and even a dead rabbit or two by the time I'd come upon the turtle that day, but there was something about seeing an animal that large, and so obviously not killed by natural causes, that was more that a little unsettling. The way the shell had been broken around the shaft of the pole and the glistening something that peaked out from underneath the broken pieces were both something that made the contents of my stomach churn in revulsion.

As the three of us stood there, looking down upon the poor dead creature, throwing wild theories around regarding the circumstances that would involve the impaling of a snapping turtle, I couldn't take my eyes off of the pole. It called out to me, pulled me in. I wanted to reach out and take it in my hands, pull it free from the carcass and toss it aside. My whole focus, my world, had been that pole. So, as the other two talked, I stretched out an unsteady hand, and touched the pole.

Then all hell broke loose.

The second I made contact with the pole it fell. The metallic clang that resulted and echoed off through the trees mixed with the unmistakable sounds of people approaching. It was the sixth graders.

There were two of them, we could see them striding through the trees.


“Run!” one of us yelled. I’m not sure who had said it, but I know that it hadn't been me. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to outrun two sixth graders. I was, after all, a chubby kid with red hair and freckles.

So I stood my ground as my friends jumped the creek and bolted west through the empty lot and up the street. The sixth graders, hearing the shouts of my friends, rushed towards me like sharks smelling blood in the water. But still, I stood my ground. Then they were on me, pushing, shoving, and filing my nostrils with their hot breath as they yelled, demanding to know what I was doing there and why I would knock over the pole.

I stammered, I back-pedaled, I shrank in fear . . . but I didn’t cry. No, instead I became submissive and tried my best to put the pole back into the turtle. It was hard going, the pole was quite big, and though I was a portly boy, I was still a little guy.

But I couldn't do it. The two sixth graders continued to shout. They hurled threats at me like dodge balls. If I couldn't get that pole back, my life would come to a quick and violent end.

I only had three options:

Run.

Fight.

Cry.

Running was out. They'd catch me.

Fighting wasn't going to happen either. There were two of them and they were bigger than me.

Crying and hoping the two would take pity on me was going to have to be the route to go.

Then, just like with the swimming pool, rescue.

Salvation came at the hands of a woman who lived just fifty yards or so from the clearing where I was being tormented. Just as the tears were about to flow, this woman, alerted to my danger by the shouts of the sixth graders, burst into the clearing. She demanded to know what was going on. What happened with her and the two sixth graders after that, I'll probably never know. Once she had put herself between me and them, I ran, leaping over the small creek and puffing west up the street.

A few days later, someone went down there to the fort built by those sixth graders and pulled it apart. I’ve never known who did it, but because I was the one they caught down there, I was the most likely suspect, and the sixth graders wanted revenge. They caught me on the playground after school and chased me up onto a wooden play set. They had me trapped on a swinging rope and wood bridge. I stood there teetering, felling as if I was on the Bridge of Death itself, one angry sixth grader on one end of the bridge, the other angry sixth grader on the other.

I tried to tell them that it hadn't been me. I hadn't been the one to wreck their fort. But they were deaf to my pleas.

Once again, luck had been with me. Just as the pounding was about to descend upon me like the fiery wrath of God, a teacher rushed out of the school and quickly put an end to it.

And here's the thing. I still run into those two guys from time to time. I hold no grudges, no ill feelings. We are always friendly when we see each other. I'm sure it would be different had they continued to torment me for the rest of my school career, but they hadn't.

There's no lesson in this story. No bit of wisdom or sage advice to share. It was just two experiences that in some way helped shape me into the flawed character I am today.

I don't think about it all that much. There's really no reason to.

But I do think of that turtle now and again.