Friday, September 27, 2013

Do You Squidoo?

Update (Aug. 24, 2014): Squidoo is shutting down! Roughly a week ago Squidoo's founder released a statement that the site is going the way of the dodo and will be selling it's content to rival HubPages. It's not a huge surprise if you were familiar with some of the things that were going on there (such as what's noted in my blog post below), but I feel sorry for all the people who devoted hundreds or thousands of man-hours to the site - especially in the past year or so.

Before I turned to writing books, I spent some time trying to earn passive/residual income from other writing activities. While the terms are often used interchangeably (I do it myself), there is a slight difference between passive income and residual income.

Passive income can be viewed as income a person earns without actively being involved in its generation. A good example would be corporate dividends: you made an initial investment that consisted of buying stock in a company. After that, you don't have to do anything in order to receive your regular dividend check.

Residual income, on the other hand, refers to some up-front endeavor or work which continues to produce income after the initial labor is complete.  Writing a book, for example. As long as the book keeps selling, the author can continue to receive royalties.

In my case, I knew of several online sites that offered revenue-sharing for writers willing post content on said sites.  One of those sites was, and I eventually posted close to 40 articles there.  I never earned a great deal of money there (I think the most I ever got was something like $40 one month), but it was fun and there was the potential for my earnings to increase down the road.  Plus, my work was going to be out there earning something forever. But it turns out that "forever" wasn't as long as I thought it was.

A few months back, I received an email from Squidoo saying that one of my lenses was going to be unpublished because it violated Squidoo's terms of service.  ("Lenses" is what they call articles on Squidoo.) Mind you, they didn't tell me what I did wrong (much less how to fix it) - just that I was in violation. (Oh yeah, they did give me a long laundry list of violations I might possibly have committed, but nothing definitive.) 

So basically, I was expected to go through my article, make a bunch of random changes, then submit it again for review.  There was another issue, though: even had I made any changes, there was no way to resubmit what I'd written!  I tried writing emailing Squidoo to get more info - what the problem was, how to fix it, how to submit it again for review - but never got a response.

In essence, without more info, I didn't know how to fix the problem.  And then I received another email from Squidoo saying that a second lens was being locked (although in actuality it was essentially the same email, with only one change: the name of the lens) - again for reasons unknown. And then it happened to a third lens. Then a fourth. Long story short, I looked today, and roughly one-third of my content on Squidoo is locked and unpublished.

Thankfully, I still have time (I think) to do something with all of the now-unpublished content I have on Squidoo, thereby bringing us to the crux of the matter (and the reason for this post):

To the extent that it is appropriate, I will probably bring some of my Squidoo content here to my blog. The rest I will probably migrate over to another revenue-sharing site like or

Of course, I'm not the only person this has happened to. There seems to be an endless parade of folks having the same issues at Squidoo (not knowing what the problem is with their content, not knowing how to fix it, and so on). I believe I read somewhere that Squidoo is doing all this in response to changes in Google's algorithms, but there has to be some means by which they can be more responsive. There needs to be method to this madness.

In retrospect, there are a lot of lessons to be learned here - particularly about how quickly favorable things can turn against you with respect to your writing. Right now, what Squidoo is doing is almost analogous to be rejected by a publisher: "Sorry, kid. Maybe next time..."  But what's probably more important is to persevere, and for me - at this time - that means saving the content on Squidoo that I labored hard and long over.  Likewise, for those struggling with their writing, it's important to understand and accept that not everyone will perceive value in what you are doing or your final product, but that doesn't mean it's worthless - far from it, in my opinion. Keep believing in the value of what you have to offer, and keep believing in yourself.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Book Release: Extraction (A Kid Sensation Story)

I'm pretty excited about finally publishing the latest Kid Sensation adventure, Extraction, which is a short story (although technically - based on word count and length - I think it actually fits the definition of a novelette). 

As with the first two novels, the cover art was done by Isikol.

The story itself is kind of a holdover - something hinted at in the second book, Mutation. However, rather than fold it into the action taking place in Kid Sensation #3 (the third book), my gut instinct was to make it a stand-alone adventure (which I hope fans of the series will appreciate).

As with the second book in the series, I once again failed miserably in terms of announcing a publication date, doing a cover release, and so on. Frankly speaking, it's probably my process that prevents me from taking any of the aforementioned actions. 

I typically don't even begin thinking about a cover until I've finished the manuscript. In fact, the first time I turn my mind to what should be on the cover is usually when I'm reaching out to my artist, Isikol, to say that I've finished a new book and would like to commission some cover art. 

Moreover, since Isikol also does the typography for me, I usually have to spend a little time trying to come up with a descriptive blurb for the back of the book before he finishes. (If I haven't mentioned it before, I usually do both an ebook and a print version of my books.)

In short, my thinking simply isn't advanced enough yet to contemplate doing all the things that established authors do. (Just to show what a Neanderthal I am, I was putzing around trying to wait for the book to show up as "published" on Amazon when the first sale came through.  Apparently, books become available to readers before Amazon even lets authors know that the publication process is complete. I'm also racing like the dickens trying to get it up on other publishing platforms.)  Regardless, I'm glad to have this one out there and hopefully readers will enjoy it.

In other news, with this baby now put to bed, Isikol can focus on the cover for the Warden sequel. As I previously posted, the text for that one is already done; depending on when the cover art gets finished (and I don't plan to rush my artist, no matter how quickly I'd like it done), it will probably get published in a week or so. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that readers will feel that it was worth the wait.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Shape of Things to Come

I was very excited to get a message tonight from someone asking about the sequel to Warden. While it hasn't been selling as well as my Kid Sensation series, the book has been a steady performer and appears to have a growing fan base.
I had originally intended to have the next book in the series published in August, but that schedule got mangled like an innocent bystander in a Stephen King novel. However, I'm happy to report that the sequel is actually finished.  I got it back from my editor last week and have just gone over it again myself. I'll probably review it one final time this weekend, so by Monday it should be ready in terms of text.

In terms of cover, however, my artist (the great Isikol), is currently at work on the cover for a new Kid Sensation short story that I recently completed. Once that is done, I hope to have him turn his hand to Warden #2. With any luck, the publication schedule looks something like this:

Kid Sensation short story - probably in the next week or so
Warden #2 - by the end of the month  

(FYI: the actual title of the sequel is Warden (Book 2: Lure of the Lamia).  As I did in the first book, I tried to take some supernatural creatures that don't get a lot of air time and let them run amok. The truth of the matter is that there are a lot of fantastic, legendary creatures out there, and it's a lot of fun to write about them.)

Beyond those two, I'm a little unsure of where to go next in terms of writing. I've got another Kid Sensation novel in mind, so that is likely to take the next spot in the queue (and of course I've been thinking about some other Warden books), but I also have some ideas for other novels and series. The questions is, at one point do I start sliding those in?

Right now, I'm just kind of oscillating - going back and forth between writing Warden and Kid Sensation. Thankfully, I've still got ideas for the major characters in those, but I've also got some stories I'm thinking about for other characters in those books.  For instance, several people have mentioned wanting to know more about the character Mouse from the Kid Sensation series.  Oddly enough, I have have Mouse's story pretty much outlined in my head; it's just a matter of putting it to paper.

Anyway, for those interested, the shape of my future writing schedule will probably be as follows:

Kid Sensation #3
Warden #3
Kid Sensation #4
Warden #4
Mouse novel (from Kid Sensation series)

Other books will probably include a dystopian series, a paranormal series, and whatever else comes to mind. Hopefully any fans of my work will stick around for the full ride.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Labor Day Weekend and Lessons Learned

After a somewhat slow July, I was blessed to have an absolutely tremendous August, with over 3500 ebook sales.  The numbers received an obvious boost from the release of Mutation, and - needless to say - I'm over the moon about the results and thrilled that readers seem to be enjoying my work.

Of course, my journey as an author is only just getting started in earnest, but I couldn't help reflecting back on the path I've taken thus far.  With that in mind, I thought it might be worth sharing some of the things that I feel were helpful to me on a number of levels in terms of my writing:

Find inspiration wherever you can - especially in the little things

Before I published Sensation, I would occasionally get this nagging thought that I shouldn't be wasting so much time writing. To a certain extent, it seemed like a healthy, creative outlet for which I merely had grandiose dreams, so doubts about how successful I could be in this endeavor would sometimes flit through my brain.

Anyway, I was getting ready for the day job one morning, with the doubts and nagging thoughts pecking away at my resolve to have a writing career, when I heard these words:

"There are people who find their own path. Chart their own course. Who never stop moving forward, and never, ever back down. Entrepreneurs; journeymen; mavericks; and pioneers who believe the American Dream doesn't just happen--it's something you have to work for."

I'd had the television on a morning news program while I was getting dressed, and what I'd heard was from an ad for this Southwest Airlines commercial:

I know it sounds hokey, but those words resonated with me. I'm not saying it was like Robert the Bruce getting motivated to drive the English out of Scotland by watching a spider build a web, but I felt inspired. I must have rewound that commercial and watched it twenty times in a row (I'm not even sure if I paid attention to the rest of it). I left for work that morning with a completely different mindset. 

Basically, I think you have to find inspiration wherever you can (yes, even in a commercial) and use it as a driving force in your work, regardless of whether that work is writing or something else.

Treat writing like a business

Back when I was in college, there was a restaurant not far from campus that purportedly had some of the best food in town (for student budgets). However, they never seemed to have consistent operating hours. Regardless of the posted opening/closing time, the owners just seemed to open their doors whenever the mood hit them - and they'd close in the same fashion. For example, if the cable went out in the restaurant so that they couldn't watch TV in the back office, they might close so that they wouldn't miss The Price is Right or some BS like that. Obviously not a great way to do business.

Likewise, if you are intent on becoming successful as an author, I think you have to treat writing like a business, with yourself as CEO. (In fact, that are many successful writers who say that this is a must.) You want to produce a quality product that the general public will want to buy. At the same time, you need to be writing regularly and consistently. I don't know that you need to write every single day, but you should probably be typing something 5 or 6 days per week. (Taking a day off every week is probably a good way to recharge your batteries and stay fresh.)

In short, you have to keep regular hours, keep your shelves stocked with product, etc. - the same things you'd do with any other business. If you treat it like a hobby - building model planes and whatnot in your spare time - then you'll get hobby-like results.

There's more than one yellow brick road to Oz

Everyone has their own definition of success and their own means of getting there. There are lots of successful writers who willingly share what they feel is the secret of their winning ways, and I'm grateful for that. Occasionally, however, the advice of one author may conflict with that of another.  In my book, it doesn't mean that either of them is wrong; truth be told there is more than one path to success in this business. I think it's worthwhile to see what a number of successful authors did and then cherry-pick the ideas, strategies and tactics that make the most sense to you.

In short, there's not just one yellow brick road to Oz; there's a million of them. You just have to find the one that works for you - and it may be a road that hasn't been laid yet.

Make your own luck

A while back I had dinner with one of the senior people at my office, and we got to talking about what makes a successful career, and how it's not always about who's the smartest or most talented.  In hearing about some of his experiences, it seemed to me that sometimes his success came as a result of catching a lucky break, and I said as much.  He laughed and agreed, saying, "Sometimes you get lucky. And sometimes, you make your own luck."

Those last five words really caught fire in my brain, because I felt like I knew exactly what he was talking about. To me, there are occasionally doors that open a crack - opportunities that present themselves for a limited time - and you need to have positioned yourself to take advantage of them. 

By way of example, I know of a company (we'll call this one Little Co.) that put in a bid for a big project and got selected for a second round of interviews with the corporation (let's say Huge Corp.) soliciting proposals. When Little Co. came in for their interview with Huge Corp., they said, "We don't want to sit around and talk about our proposal. Instead, we'd like to spend that time working for you, showing you what we can do and the quality of our product. Then, when we finish, you can decide."  Huge Corp. agreed, and (as you might have guessed) Little Co. ended up with the work - despite the fact that they were not as established or well-known as some of the other bidders.  They made their own luck - and so can you.

Greatness awaits

Finally, for those of you doubting yourselves, I ask, "Who are you not to be great?"

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