Saturday, November 26, 2016

Gifts For The Ones You Love

It's that time of year--time to be thinking about what to get your loved ones for Christmas. Well, if your significant other or family member or BFF is a reader, I have the perfect gift: The Shalan Adventures. There are four exciting tales and you can get them all for just $40! Or pick up any one for only $10. To order paperbacks, go to the books page of my website and click on Createspace beside each title.

If the recipient of your gift is more into e-books, they're available as well for only $2.99 each! That's less than $12 for the whole collection. And you don't even need to wrap them. To order ebooks, you can also go to my website and click the Kindle button beside each title.

You are undoubtedly familiar with Amazon, which is the only place you can get the electronic versions of my books, but you may not know what Createspace is. While it is affiliated with Amazon, it is an independent company that prints and distributes my books. If you order from them, you are essentially buying directly from the manufacturer and cutting out the middleman, Amazon in this case. Why does that matter? Well, frankly, it means that I get to keep a slightly larger portion of the royalty on each book that is sold, and I can tell you that as an independent author, every little bit helps. So, while you can choose to order from Amazon or any other online seller to get the paperbacks and pay the same price, if you want more of your money to go to the author and less to the big company selling it, you'll choose to order through Createspace.

Of course, if you live in the Mid-Ohio Valley, then you can buy directly from me. And I'm running a special that is available only to those who buy direct. Buy all four volumes in the Shalan Adventures series and receive $5 off. That's like getting the fourth book for half price! But that's only available to local customers buying directly from me.

If you want to learn more about my books, remember, all you need to do is go to my website and click on the Books tab. While you're there, you can learn more about me and how I came to be an author as well as find any events I'll be participating in. I hope you'll take some time and look around. And if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to do that here or by using the contact page of my website. You can also email me directly by clicking here. I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Time For Thanks

Writers hate to be labeled as hackneyed or cliché, but one time of year that I don't mind doing what's expected is this week. Yes, we should be thankful all year long and I like to believe that I am, but this week is the time to pay special attention to all of the blessings in our lives. And I have a lot. So here's what I'm thankful for:

Samuel knows exactly
what to do when the
phone is pointed at him.
Family: Folks who know me are aware that I live with my parents. That's partly an economic thing, but it's also a family thing. My mom and dad took me in a few years back when I was going through a divorce and it's just worked out well enough that we decided to keep it this way. Yes, living as an adult with your aging parents has its unique challenges, but I believe the blessings far outweigh them. I love them very much and am thankful to still have them in my life. The same is true for my siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, and other family members, some of whom I don't see as often as I'd like, but they are also a great blessing to me. 

Friends: The gang of folks I hang around with, unofficially known as the Nerd Night Group, got a little larger this year. Part of that was by inducting new members--thanks for joining us, Cosbys--and partly by birth. Very shortly after Thanksgiving last year, Samuel Christian Schoenhut came into the world and completely stole my heart. There is just nothing in the world that
brings me greater joy than seeing him smile and hearing him laugh. I just love him more than I thought it was possible to love a miniature human. I know he's not my child, but I'm honored by the fact that Keith and Jennifer welcome me into their lives so that I feel like I'm actually contributing to his upbringing. So for my dear friends, I'm deeply thankful.

My wall of senior pics
that reminds me of all the
remarkable friends I've
had over the years. 
My Kids: I don't have any biological children, but every year I get the joy of temporarily adopting a bunch of kids who are officially my students, but I think of them as more than that. And there's a small group of kids who eat lunch in my room. Yesterday, on the last day before our Thanksgiving break, we all got together for what the kids dubbed "ThanksStephens." We had turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing--all the traditional favorites. But more than that, we had fellowship and laughter. It reminded me of just how amazingly blessed I am to do the job that I do. Sometimes I talk about retiring early if this writing thing ever takes off, but I'm just not sure I'm ready to give up these wonderful, loving, kind, hilarious kids. 

I could go on forever talking about all the remarkable things for which I'm grateful, but three seems like a good round number. I do want to say one last thing for which I'm thankful: you. All you lovely people who read this blog and buy my books. Your support means the world to me and I really do appreciate it. Now I leave it to you. I would love it if you would share what you're thankful for this Thanksgiving week. Comment here or on the Facebook link; either is great. But I'd really love to hear from everyone who reads this. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Keyboard Abides

laptop computer keyboard macbook apple business research study I've been sitting here, The Twilight Zone on in the background, wondering what to say this morning. I stared at the keyboard, which just stared right back. It didn't judge or clear its throat or shuffle its feet or roll its eyes. It patiently waited until the idea congealed in my mind: the keyboard is ever patient, but it's always there. No matter how long I put it off, no matter how much TV I watch or Facebook I scan through (apparently there was an election of some sort recently), the keyboard is sitting quietly, waiting for me to move my fingers across it and, hopefully, make a little magic.

Sometimes the magic just doesn't come. There are words, but they're ordinary, pedestrian, even boring. But other times I write something, go back and read over it, and the hair on the back of my neck stands up. For that short period of time, for that paragraph or page or chapter, I've captured the lightning and put it on the screen. Whether anyone else would agree with my assessment is, at least for the moment, beside the point. I liked it. I believed, however briefly, that I could write and write well.

catholic church ceiling religion sculptures angels gold That's the essence of writing in my mind. It's magical; it's mystical; it's elusive, kind of like those times when a memory or even just a word hovers just outside of our consciousness. We like to say it's on the tips of our tongues. Well, for writers, it's on the tips of our fingers. We keep clacking away on this never-absent keyboard in the hopes that it will come out. Sometimes it does and other times, well, it just doesn't.

But when it does, it's such a glorious experience. Not to over-dramatize it, but it really does feel, even if for just a little while, like we're seeing the world clearly. We understand. We hear the flutter of the angels' wings. It's transcendent and we hope it never goes away.

nature landscape amazing lightning people trees silhouette shadows light But it does go away. And that's a good thing. Otherwise, all writers would do is huddle in their writing nooks and write forever, becoming hermits, shutting ourselves from all human contact. We spend enough time doing that as it is, so it's probably best that those lightning moments are just that: they strike and then they're gone until the next one comes. It's in between the lightning that we do "normal" stuff, like eat and sleep and see movies with friends and go to church. But when you text us and we don't answer, look around. See a flash of light in the sky in the direction of our house? I bet I know what it is.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

And We're Back, Ladies and Gentlemen

blog blogging business web internet scrabble wood When I opened my blog to start this post, it was with great disbelief that I took note of the fact that my last one was way back on September 24. I didn't realize how long I had taken off. The time flew by. Time seems to do that more and more as I age. But there was never any question that I would be back. I enjoy this blog whether anyone actually reads it or not. So it will continue, but I needed some time away. Away from the blog, away from writing, away from selling my books and feeling like a huckster for trying to sell my books.

So I stopped. All of it. I stopped writing for over a month. Not a word. Didn't carry my trusty little blue notebook with me. Didn't write any short stories, didn't write any poems, didn't write or even think much about my latest work-in-progress (except for when it crowded its way to the front of the line occasionally). I did write a couple of articles for Clutch, but I didn't really, unless I just wanted to resign from there--if you can resign from a job for which you receive no money--have much of a choice in that. But I also quit updating my Facebook page and my website and checking my Twitter feed and all the other social media things that I felt like were taking up all my time and energy.
pedestrian walking stop intersection pavement street road
Why did I stop? Well, that's a good question. It wasn't a fully conscious choice so much as a spontaneous response to just one too many disappointing author events. I had a pretty good string of those. Days of building up the psychic energy to go out there and smile and say hello and hand out bookmarks and ask people to buy my books and maybe sell a book or two or, more likely, not sell a book or two. I read somewhere once that a good salesman will receive at least nine rejections for every one sale. I feel like that's a bit low. Actually, a lot low. And that's not something I really enjoy. Part of why authors become authors is that they are often socially awkward and express themselves more comfortably in writing than they do in person.

I know that seems contradictory from a teacher, but you'd be surprised by how many teachers are completely comfortable in the specific setting of their classroom with their kids but wouldn't want to work with the public in any other setting ever. I'm really one of those people. I'd be glad to go to a reading and read and talk about my books with people who want to hear from me and I would be completely content answering all the questions anyone could ever think of, but going up to someone and trying to get them to be interested in me and my books is just not something I really enjoy doing at all.

But I'm not complaining. It just comes with the territory when you're an indie author. So it's either this or I just write these books for myself and the idea of writing an entire series of books and being mildly proud of them and then not trying to get people to read them is just odd. I guess I could give them away, but that will hardly provide me with a living when I retire from teaching, will it?

still camp fire flames hot burning wood charred ashes light shadows Sorry if I seem like I'm rambling. It's been so long that my fingers are suffering from some from of digital diarrhea, if you'll pardon the rather indelicate metaphor. To sum up, I was suffering from a touch of burnout and I was just kind of tired. I needed to step back, enjoy some time with my friends, take care of myself, and re-evaluate whether I wanted to maintain this activity, which many indie authors will likely agree is often not much more than a really expensive habit. And the answer is yes. Yes, I do want to continue. Yes, I do want to write and even sell books, hopefully for the rest of my life. And I hope you are here for all of them.