The Dragon Rises – Apocalypse Weird Gets it Done!

the dragon will rise

When George Lucas pitched his Star Wars script to the studio, they reluctantly accepted and green lit a very low budget for a space opera that, in their minds, would hopefully make the money back and most likely not have an impact on anything. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall the moment George asked the studio to keep the merchandise rights. They chuckled and gave it to him. Well…

Not that long ago and in this very same galaxy, a small group of authors approached Amazon to pitch the idea of publishing books by multiple authors writing stories in the same world. Amazon liked the idea. They loved the idea. They said it would be impossible to implement as they would have to build a completely new and separate department for it. They declined. Maybe they chuckled. We won’t know.

A week ago, I looked at the publishing schedule for Apocalypse Weird. We are well into 2016, with 2 books per month and no end in sight. Didn’t we just start this whole thing? New authors are coming on board and all of the books that are out right now, have been green lit for their respective sequels. HOW COOL IS THAT???

Because new stories were developed and approved while I was still writing, the sequel to The White Dragon – Genesis won’t be out until May, 2016. That’s a year from now. That’s a long time to wait if someone liked the book and I felt that I wanted to compensate readers for their patience. And here’s the cool thing about working with fellow indie authors. They get it. They get when something sounds right and benefits the reader, and they act on it.

I asked Nick to consider allowing me to write two books before March, 2016 (the deadline for handing in the manuscript to Ellen Campbell, our editor in charge). He said yes. So, here’s what will happen: The White Dragon – Crucible will come out in May 2016. One month later, in June, the conclusion of the series, The White Dragon – Alchemy will be published. I’m thrilled to have a deadline. It somehow gets the creative juices flowing.

Thanks to everyone who has read the first book. Thanks to you, I can do what I love and keep writing Kasey’s story.

Please read all the other books in the Apocalypse Weird universe. It’s a rich reading experience that will just get richer as new books become available.

Cheers,

Stefan

My First Publishing Deal, and it's WEIRD.

I remember, I was probably eleven or twelve years old, when I got my first tape recorder. That was back in Germany sometime in the seventies. Best of Elvis was out and everyone still listened to The Beatles. You can get those recorders now for $1 on ebay. It looked very similar to this:

Untitled

 

From that point on, I’d sit in my room for hours at a time, recording “Hoerspiele,” stories complete with narrator, characters and special, home made sound effects. I was always Bruce Lee. He was my hero. I made up stories in my head while narrating into the tape recorder. I’d fall to the floor when Bruce was hurt, run around my room as if I was running through some dark back alley and I talked in different character voices. I don’t think I ever listened to the tapes afterwards. Unfortunately, none of those survived.

Then came a time when I read a lot of demon hunter novellas. They came out every Friday and I’d buy one and stay in bed reading on Saturday mornings.

Untitled

 

I think I was seventeenish when I started writing a novel. It was a spy/military novel based mostly on stories and characters in Alistair McLean and Robert Ludlum books. Then life happened and for the next twenty years I didn’t write much. When I came to the U.S. in 1997, I got my GED and went to Ulster County Community College for an associates degree. It was during an English class, after I had handed in a writing assignment, when my teacher told me that I should pursue writing. I remember that day, and the reason why I remember that day is because I realized at that moment that this was what I wanted to do. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I can’t write in German for the life of me. Nothing comes out. I can’t describe images nor transfer emotions onto the page. But somehow, writing in English allows me to put what I feel and see right onto the page. When I went to SUNY New Paltz to continue with my Bachelor Degree studies, I took a few creative writing classes. At the same time, I had another idea for a novel. I began writing it but after a few pages I realized that I saw everything that happened in camera angles and full color as if I was sitting in a movie theater. So, I took a screen writing class and started to write screen plays. I wrote four of them. The first one came dangerously close to being optioned. In fact, the producer in Los Angeles had sent me the contracts to sign. I think I froze. Instead of going with it, I gave her several reasons why I couldn’t do it.

20140707_220746[1]

I wasn’t ready, wasn’t anywhere near ready. But that time, roughly between 1999 and 2004, cemented in me the wish to write, even more. Then life happened again – divorce, move, career change, etc. I went to therapy and one part of the healing process was guided imagery journeys. Somehow, my therapist thought they’d help me and, besides the very nice English teacher back in Community College who told me to write, my therapist is fully responsible for what came next. The imagery journeys I undertook brought me to places right out of a Lord of the Rings setting. They were highly symbolic and deeply moving and meaningful to me. Also at her suggestion, I began to write down what I’d seen and encountered during those sessions. This kept me writing for a bunch of years until The Three Feathers came along and my self publishing journey began.

Of course I thought The Three Feathers would be an overnight success and I’d write full time from now on and get a pool, an Audi, and whatever else the imagination can think up. And, also of course, it didn’t happen. But, again, I realized that I just wanted to write and whatever happened with the books became secondary. I met Hugh Howey in New York City in 2012. As fate happened, Hugh was in the city to talk to his publisher about Wool. I had no clue who he was but Amy, my fiancee, had found him on the internet one Monday night. She said, “Hey there’s this guy who self publishes and he’s got a meet up in the city TOMORROW!”

I went and we met and had a nice night out with about a dozen fans and readers of his books. Those meet-ups were small back then. Nowadays, there would probably be a town hall to hold the people who want to meet him.

HughHowey

Hugh has helped so many of us independent authors to find our footings, to keep it real, and to keep going. Thank you, Hugh!!

Then I wrote a bunch of other books and while I wrote those, something else happened. But let me back track for one moment: While I wrote The Three Feathers, I had been thinking about the German saying, “Der Weg ist das Ziel,” which means that the goal of the journey is the journey itself and not so much reaching the destination. I knew there was some thruth in it but I also knew that something was missing. My dear friends and characters in The Three Feathers, Joshua, Krieg, and Grey, through their love and unwavering loyalty to each other, taught me that neither the journey nor the destination are the important but rather the companions we pick up along the way.

Hang tight. There is a point in all this :-).

So, anyway, I wrote a bunch of books and, on the way, began to meet other authors, fellow indies who were on the same journey I was on. They struggled, they tried all kinds of different things, they were desperate, hopeful, enthusistic and ALWAYS ready to help whenever it was needed. Out of that crowd of very talented writers and extremely nice human beings, I became good friends with Hank Garner who had just started his Author Stories Pod Cast series – a podcast in which he interviews fellow indie authors about what made them want to become writers and such. We connected on Facebook and realized that we had a lot in common.

I went on his show and we had a blast during the interview. A few months later, Hank did an author round table and, to my surprise, he invited me back. There was Nick Cole, Jennifer Ellis, Michael Bunker, Chris Pourteau, Hank and myself. We had a nice two hour chat with lots of laughs and good stories to share and in the midst of it, someone suggested that I’d write a story for Apocalypse Weird, the new thing Michael and Nick had come up with. After the podcast was taped, I completely forgot that part of it. I guess I thought they were kind of joking when they said it.

A few days later, Hank messaged me. “Hey, so you’re writing for Apocalypse Weird? Are you gonna do it?” “What?” I had no recollection of it being mentioned. He told me that I should contact Nick and pitch him an idea, like, now. So I did. THANKS HANK!! I came up with this idea that would take place in Long Island, Amy’s home town and I pitched Nick the idea. It got accepted and, at the twelvth hour, I was suddenly part of the sixteen authors who’d write the initial sandbox for Apocalypse Weird.

CRAZY!!!

I just signed the contract for one book a few days ago. If all goes well, I’m hoping to write a few more in that world. Working with everyone there, the authors, the creative team, the guys who came up with the idea, is like a dream come true in many ways already.  See, we joke a lot. We utterly and completely encourage each other’s writing. We want to make each other better writers, more successful writers. I think we all feel that we’re part of something that is slightly larger than ourselves. We can’t quite figure out how we got here but all of us have this sense that we might stand at the beginning of something big.

To get the oportunity to be a part of this group, this endeavor, is much more than a mere publishing deal. And you might have heard from authors who have been picked up by main stream publishers and said that their experience was not a good one. At Wonderment Media, the umbrella company for Apocalypse Weird, there is this almost Musketeerish sense of all for one and one for all prevalent in communications and interactions. Whatever may come of this for me personally, having had the oportunity, the honor, to work with them, has already paid off.

I hope, one day we’ll all meet for a weekend in Vegas!

🙂

Cheers,

Stefan

Check out Hank Garner’s Author Story Podcast from the 20th of February. Nick Cole, Michael Bunker and Rob McClellan talk about Apocalypse Weird, how it happened, what it is and why it’s such an amazing thing to be part of.

http://hankgarner.com/episode-thirty-apocalypse-weird-launch-special/

 

3 . 2 . 1 . LAUNCH!!!

In an unprecedented publishing event, on February 23rd, 2015, five (5!) new Apocalypse Weird novels will be launched simultaneously.

They include:

Texocalypse Now by Michael Bunker and Nick Cole

Texocalypse

 

The Dark Knight by Nick Cole

TheDarkKnight_FT_FINAL

 

Reversal by Jennifer Ellis

Reversal

 

The Serenity Strain by Chris Pourteau

Serenity

 

 

Immunity by E.E. Giorgi.

(cover to follow)

 

Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) of Reversal, The Dark Knight, The Serenity Strain, and Immunity will be coming available starting in early February and leading up to the launch. ARC readers and reviewers will be eligible for some great prizes before and at the Facebook Launch Party on February 23rd from 2:00 to 8:00 Pacific Time.

 Prizes for ARC readers and reviewers will include:

  • Five signed paperback copies of Nick Cole’s Soda Pop Soldier for the review voted most helpful on Amazon by midnight on February 23. There will be one prize per launch book.
  • Three paperback copies of Texocalypse Now signed by Nick Cole and Michael Bunker. To be eligible, ARC readers must post their favorite excerpt from one of the launch novels on Facebook and/or Twitter and tag the author in the week leading up to the Launch Party.
  • A signed copy of pirated print copy of Osage Two Diamonds, by Michael Bunker, which officially does not exist in print. This prize will go to the best review of one of the launch novels on Amazon as voted by the launch authors by 6:00 PT the day of the launch.

 

The *grand prize* is a tier two contract for the Apocalypse Weird world of novels.

This prize will go to the best pitch for a novel set in the Apocalypse Weird world, as chosen by five launch authors at 4:00 PT on February 23rd. Purchasing and reading at least one of the launch books and demonstrating your author platform through sharing of information regarding the Apocalypse Weird launch books will be an essential part of developing a pitch.

Interested ARC prizewinners will also be put in a draw to receive book trailers developed by Apocalypse Weird authors Hank Garner and Kim Wells, as well as a podcast slot with Hank Garner on his popular Author Stories podcast series.

Readers will be notified of ARC availability via the Apocalypse Weird mailing list. Make sure you are signed up and don’t miss a single ARC.

 

www.apocalypseweird.com <http://www.apocalypseweird.com>

You can also sign up to receive updates by each of the individual launch authors on their websites:

http://www.nickcolebooks.com/

http://www.michaelbunker.com/

http://www.jenniferellis.ca>

http://chrispourteau.thirdscribe.com/

http://chimerasthebooks.blogspot.ca/

Don’t forget to join the Facebook Party hosted by the launch authors and many of the other Apocalypse Weird authors. There will be some great giveaways and lots of apocalyptic fun to be had.

The link for the Facebook Party is:

https://www.facebook.com/events/399694080198751/

Get the Books!

[books_custom amount=”6″ size=”150″ type=”newest” custom_sort=”publisher” custom_sort_value=”Wonderment Media Incorporated”]
 

Apocalypse Weird – A Revolution in Publishing

 

You may have heard and seen me talk about it here and there – this strange new thing I’m involved in. Apocalypse Weird is its name. It doesn’t sound like much at first glance. Just another thing. I’d like to take a moment and tell you why I think Apocalypse Weird will revolutionize the publishing industry. Never in the history of main stream and indie publishing have you had a group of authors band together to create something that is larger than themselves – a world so vast and exciting, so unique and filled with stories of loss and survival, of life and death, of the brotherhood of human kind and of the apocalypse that might destroy it all.

Think for a moment about all the stories you have read as a child – the heroes and villains you’ve encountered; the worlds you have travelled; the dangers you had to walk through in order to reach the other side. Now think if this world would be dreamed up, made vast and dangerous, epic, and filled with those heroes and villains and stories, but imagine it not being done by one single author but by twenty – twenty of the most visionary indie and main stream writers out there.

As an example, let’s say you’re on your third Apocalypse Weird book and you suddenly realize that there is a connection between that story and a previous one. It’s subtle and you have to think about it a bit but after a while you figure it out and you get it, get that one of the characters in one story is there because of his or her involvment in another.

If you’ve ever watched the TV show LOST, you know it was filled to the rim with those interconnected stories. You’d see Hurley, after winning the Lottery, sitting at home at his mom’s house, trying to figure out why everyone in his life now has bad luck. “It’s the numbers! You have to get away from the numbers!” Loenard Sims screamed at him when Hurley visited his old friend in the mental institution. The lottery numbers of one episode connect to several other stories and story lines throughout the show.

The same thing, but much more interactive, is going to happen with Apocalypse Weird. Because it’s all on e-readers and kindles, and there are links hidden in the text, the readers can access secret sites, gather information about characters, connections, and such.

Twenty authors, together with a team of marketers, an incredible cover artitst, editor, formatter, all work together to create something that has never been done before. Ever.

4 of 5 covers

 

On February 23rd, five books will be published. You can see the covers of four of them above. Those five books will hit Amazon and all the other major outlets at once that day.

Here’s where you come in: We can’t do this alone. We need your help. Besides getting the books and writing reviews on Amazon, if you know someone at the New York Times, USA today, NBC, ABC, a radio host, TV host, or someone in the industry who knows someone who wants to interview one of us or write a blog post about us or invite us on his or her show, anyone, let me know. We’ve got three weeks and the launch will be epic. As epic as the stories. And you can help pull it off.

Never in the history of publishing had the reader such influence on the success of a project than with this one. You can be there with us. If you know of anyone who could help us, please send me an email. Here is my email address:

stefanbolzauthor@gmail.com

Thanks so much!

Stefan

 

Herr Franz interviews Dr. Midnite

I agreed to let a friend of mine, Herr Franz, do a guest interview on my blog. I hope you enjoy it.

Hotel

Gentle reader. My name is not important. This interview is. I met Dr. Midnite in his… house. You could call it that, yes, even though there are several basic structural elements missing.  Dr. Midnite was kind enough to take an hour out of his busy life and sit down. Face to face, so to speak. I have done many interviews in my life. This one was weird, yes, very much so. But it was also beautiful at the same time; like dying leafs on trees in the fall. I have been thinking about his words since that evening, thinking hard about my own life and what I could possibly have done differently. But I digress.

Herr Franz: Doctor Midnite, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Dr. Midnite: Start off like you’re talking to me as a real person and not something as an object.  And let’s talk like two people having a real conversation here, don’t just start with this sort of faux politeness that so-called polite criminal petty society tell us that we are supposed to have. Introduce yourself. Start over. Let’s walk this back. Let’s start over. You ask first how I’m doing, and introduce yourself.

That’s not my dog by the way. Is that your dog? It’s an odd that a dog is here.

Herr Franz: That was my dog. He must have smelled something. Guess we got off on the wrong foot. How should I address you? You can call me Herr Franz.

Dr. Midnite: You have a dog here? What kind of three ring circus run by drunken apes do you think this is, my cultured friend? Look let’s start over, let’s sit on the ground like two equals around a campfire and you can call me Mister.

Franz? What kind of name is that? Portuguese? You don’t look Portuguese. I’m not prejudiced. Franz. You ever been in a knife fight in the desert with only the moon as your guide?

Herr Franz: It’s Bavarian. Franz is Bavarian. I might be a little drunk but that’s neither here nor there, Doctor Midnite. Sorry. Mister Midnite. Mister. That’s a definite no to the knife fight. I cut myself once while cutting bread at my grandmother’s apartment in ’74. I wouldn’t call that a ‘fight’ even though I lost for sure. But let me say this: I’ve been a huge fan of your work. Your blogs are enigmatic. Would you care to comment on how you got into that line of… work?

Dr. Midnite: Bavarian? My grandmother was Bavarian. 5th Women’s SS. She died during the war after she got shot robbing a Rettungswagen for morphine during an air raid. Well, then, comrade I guess we can keep up this with you still being a knife fight virgin which is a sad commentary on the times we live in. Did you know for example, that Walt Disney was involved in several knife fights during the premiere of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?” And that back then, it was the only way to settle issues of copyright infringement amongst the creative?

Anyway, we’re getting off on a tangent, which Franz, I have to admit, is your fault. My blogs are my way of really taking back the long black veil that hides most of the world away from the uninitiated. Such as yourself. I got into that work because I was never retired via force after working at the Reagan White House during the 1980s when I never knew Colonel North. You understand? I never worked there. So then I decided after my fifth gin and tonic of the evening after the 1992 election screw job that the hell with it, I’m gonna show the world what they don’t want to be shown. You understand? You feel me, Franz? You got an idea of the responsibility I have to the free world that isn’t locked behind a Communist electric fence?

Herr Franz: Uhm…

Dr. Midnite: Well do you? Have you ever been in a forward position?

Herr Franz: I’ve been in a forward position during most of our school soccer games. Is that what you mean? I have a burning question: What is your relationship with math? Any comment you could make on the subject would be greatly appreciated. There’s a follow up ques—

Dr. Midnite: SOCCER? You’re comparing soccer- what are comparing? What is this? Why are you wearing kabuki makeup and giving off a red aura? Do you know what it’s like when crocodiles mate! It’s reptiles screwing! Think of a universe that we live in when there’s scotch for everyone and there’s not a single glass to share!

My relationship with math is the relationship of a master with a craft little known to your average Westerner. Math is a rational thing inside a universe that is crumbling on the edges from irrationality. The machine is stopped. You get it, Pachinko? The machine is stopped and the math is something that allows us to know every shape and size of its gears, its wheels and its crankshafts. So we can restart up the machine and get the smokestacks smoking.

You want to smoke something, my Mormon friend?

Herr Franz: I’m wearing kabuki make-up because I… I didn’t want to be recognized. The red aura is probably that large sign outside your window that says HOTEL.

Dr. Midnite: That red sign is a symbol of our times. Ho-Tel. Get it? You get it, you’re European. Ho-Tel. Got it. Good. And the Kabuki makeup, I dig it. They can’t see you with it on. You wanna do a line?

Herr Franz: A line? Like from a musical?

Dr. Midnite: You do this, you’ll be meeting the Wizard of Oz. Put it that way. Come on Kabuki Kim let’s get this rolling. What were you yammering about? Math?

Herr Franz: Yes.

Dr. Midnite: You wanna learn about Math? You wanna learn?

Herr Franz: Yes—

Dr. Midnite: Come on!

Herr Franz: As you wish. Let’s start with what your readers already know about you. Maybe you can fill in the gaps, gasps, gapes, or gulps. You like the second amendment. You like The Cult, Dunhills, Steve McQueen, sarcasm, the DARKNET, someone called The Black Knight, kitties, math (sorry I seem to come back to that), and putting words in bold. What am I missing? Who is really outside the Velvet Suite, outside of it all?

Dr. Midnite: You understand what violence is? Do you know what it means? You want gaps, gasps, gapes and gulps and giraffes running through the gorgeous ruin of your mind? I’ll give you violence. Violence against the reality of your mind as your brain is pushed down the stairs and into a dark basement where it finally pulls the string to light up the place that you never had the balls to see in the first place before your gorgeous accident!

You ever been through a revolutionary situation, my foreign friend? The Cult you talk about, the Dunhills, Steve McQueen, DARKNET, all that- it means something, okay? Its means a universe of revolution is coming through. Black Knight is the thing that watches all of us from the sky- its a satellite beaming down images and commands from the great other. Go look it up. Black Knight Satellite.  It’s the harbinger of it all.

You’re all outside the Blue Velvet Suite because you haven’t spent any time behind the computer  and talking to the field mice and listening to the waves crashing against our shore. If you did, you know what all you just mentioned means. I put words in bold because I don’t need to talk about it. You need to look it up. Go take a moment. Get into the surf and see what’s in that bold blue sea.

And what you’re gonna find is the irrational- and the sea monsters, slurping and lurking in the waves. And they’re all ready to hit the beach everywhere.

Herr Franz: Let me make sure I understand you correctly. After reading through your posts and following you in the interwebs, and reading your posts again and yet once more, I can only come to one conclusion. It is a horrifying thought and I never admitted having it until today.  You talk about a lot of things and they don’t seem to make sense at first but when one reads them again and again, it kind of all does make sense suddenly. Dr. Midnite, are we doomed? Are we at the brink of something you are trying to tell us in so many words? Are we? And are you — against all better judgment on my part — the true and only voice of reason?

Dr. Midnite: There was once a shaman named Tsavo, who used to be able to change into an electric snake and sail the thermals of the sky. I met him in Houston. And he opened my eyes to things that my not-experience in the world of the shadows and the Not CIA had never shown me- and I’d seen some things boy, that would make your pretty and very luxuriant hair turn a terrible lightning white.  And he told me, with the coming of the irrationality and the weird, that what makes sense is senseless and what makes no sense is the truth. And I’m speaking the truth, brother. Along with nonsense. You dig?

Oh, and yeah. We’re doomed. It’ll be weird. You probably won’t be okay. I’ll be fine. But remember, you can get through it. If you keep it weird. That’s how you can keep up being a voice of reason and of the true.

Herr Franz: I appreciate the compliment about my hair. It probably comes from my mother’s side as she has very thick, wavy hair. Forgive me, I haven’t commented on the decor in your… house. Very manly and at the same time somewhat retro, in a Victorian kind of way. Except for the empty gin bottles and the gun shells. But let’s get back to the topic. As you are somewhat of an expert in this field, could you tell our readers anything else, maybe as a precaution, should we get generators? Should we stack up on holy water and canned tomatoes? Any last words from you, Dr. Midnite, sir?

Dr. Midnite: Ain’t no precaution when the whirlwind is coming, friendo.  And don’t stock up- just makes you a target for the looters. Unless you got the muscle and the magic to back up your fortress.

One last word- words, whatever. It’s gonna be midnight everywhere soon. Better listen to the good Doctor.

Herr Franz: It was a pleasure talking to you. I would also like to extend… Dr. Midnight? Hello? Where… are you? Doctor?

I can’t find the Doctor. He’s GONE! All I have is two links, written on a handkerchief with his initials, DM, embroidered in a corner: www.apocalypseweird.com and www.doctormidnite.com. If you see a RED button on one of those sites, do NOT push it. You have been warned.

Herr Franz.

Life imitates art. The Fourth Sage.

I’m posting this just for fun. Stumbled upon it on Facebook. A hawk attacks a drone in a park. How cool is that!

 

Here is the section in the book that goes with it.

She hears the humming behind her and runs alongside the transformer to an intersection. Right or left? She goes to the right because it seems logical. After about twenty feet she’s in a dead end. She turns around and begins to run in the other direction. The drone hovers into the narrow passageway in front of her. It’s now about fifteen feet away, approximately eight feet above the walkway. Aries has nowhere to go.

This can’t be it, she thinks, as she watches the drone move closer. For a second, she sees the bright image of a corridor in her mind—a space between two transformers. She raises her hands over her head, kneels down. Another image flashes in front of her. It shows herself kneeling about twenty feet below and the drone hovering above.

When Aries looks up she sees something behind the drone, moving closer fast. The hawk’s cry echoes through the space. The drone registers it and turns, pointing its sensors toward it. At that moment, the hawk lands on top of it, claws outstretched, beak ready to strike.

Go! is all Aries hears. From her kneeling position she rolls forward, jumps up, and disappears into the passageway she came from. From there, she turns toward the stairwell and slides down. Three seconds. She races through the labyrinth of hallways. Where are you? she asks in her thoughts, while sliding down the next staircase…

Soulful Self Publishing – What I Took Away From a Bunker/Grahl Webinar

I came to writing novels after a long phase of writing screenplays. During that time, I studied many a script, from Good Will Hunting to Lord of the Rings, from The Crow to Shawshank Redemption and American Beauty. I looked at the techniques used, the character arcs, plot development, and imagery. I soaked it all up. My favorites were, by far, Aaron Sorkin’s scripts of The West Wing. They were so good, the dialogues so crisp and tight, the writing so beautiful, that I was devestated.  I was awed, inspired, and devestated all at once. I am trying to combine those three words into one but I’m not having much luck. Awspevestated? Despired? Devestired? I thought very often, “O my god, this is awesome! O my god, I’m screwed!” If you’re an author, you might know of what I speak.

west_wing_script

I was taking acting lessons for a while, just before the novel writing started. My coach, Sande Shurin, had a simple yet brililiant approach: “Don’t worry so much about what the character is supposed to feel. How do YOU feel? Right now? What’s going through your head? Be authentic. Be your most authentic self. Nobody can copy you because you’re you. You’re not Matt Damon, you’re not Al Pacino, neither will you ever be. Ever. You can only be you. But you can be you whole heartedly and in so doing, create a unique voice that cannot be replicated.”

61T9aLrRDdL._SL1360_

What’s my point? There is one, I promise. I was devestated yesterday. Despired. Awspevestired. Why? I took part in a webinar – my first one – with Michael Bunker and Tim Grahl. “Indie Launch Secrets” was three hours long, with two short breaks. There was so much information, it was hard to keep up. My head was spinning after a mere forty-five minutes. Thank goodness, the webinar is there for me to go back to AND I will be getting all the notes from it today in a PDF. Why the devestation? I felt it. I felt the truth in their words. It was honest, intelligent, and throroughly thought-out. There was nothing flashy about it. It was pure. It was plain and simple, like an Amish life. It was nothing short of genius. I predict that this will be the North Star of how to successfully self publish, for years to come. Michael Bunker talking so passionately about the interaction between the artist and the reader, the soulful exchange that is at the heart of his success in self publishing, was what stuck with me most.

I won’t get into specifics here. It’s doubly, nay, quadruply worth it for everyone who has taken this rocky road of self publishing to get their buts and laptops to the next webinar (not sure when this is going to be but I’m fairly certain there will be another one). The gist, for me, is this: I need to forget what I think I know about self-publishing. I need to regroup. Devestation is a good motivator to regroup. The old ways (yes, the ways self publishing was conducted in 2011 ARE old) are no longer valid.

There needs to be a foundation. That foundation, based on a long-term and life-long-lasting plan of living as a self published author, cannot be made of sand. The tide will wash it away. It will take the house, as big and fancy and solid as it might seem to be, and it will wash it away and there will be nothing left but the sand on which it was built.

The new paradigm of self publishing is based on, built upon, and held up through soulful interaction with fellow humans. Gone are the days of tweeting the same message five times a day; gone the “BUY MY BOOK NOOOOOOOW!” shout outs into an audience that is already saturated to the rim with that very same message from yesterday. No. Let the tide take that house, built on twitter posts and cheap one-liners. Let it be washed into the ocean. And let me stand here and gather my friends and together build something that will last a life time.

Now, let me put my smart and brilliant acting coach into the picture, to round it off. If the foundation of self publishing is real human interaction, then it cannot happen between a real reader and a fake author. Fake author has to be washed away together with the fake foundation of the fake house. The real author, the real me, is the only one who will be heard, the only one who can build a house on granite, set deeply within the soil, and thereby made impenetrable to the tide.

Tim Grahl said this, in his book, Your First 1000 Copies: “Marketing is two things: 1) creating lasting connections with people through 2) a focus on being relentlessly helpful.”

What a concept, right? I will leave it at that. For me, finding that which only I can offer, and offer it whole heartedly without reservation, is my goal from now on. Thanks Michael and Tim. Thanks for sharing your talents and passions and continuing to do so.

Stefan

“The goal of the journey is neither the journey in itself nor its end. It is but the companions we collect on the way.” [Joshua Aylong – The Three Feathers]

The First Two Years of Being an Indie Author – An Honest Assessment

It’s been a bit over two years since I began this journey into the unknown, into the world of indie publishing – this ominous thing I’ve heard about; this possibility of leaping into a different carreer. It has been exciting, disappointing, fulfilling, and leaving me hanging on by a thread, all usally within a day’s time. Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic but I definitely went through the highs and lows just like any other author who had just jumped out of the starting gates. After two years of white-water rafting the currents of the great river that is called self publishing, I feel that I’m finally heading toward calmer shores. This article is an assessment, as true as possible, of where I am currently.

I didn’t use a professional editor for my first book. I couldn’t afford it. Now I know I couldn’t afford not to. I got 50 reviews, mostly 4 and 5 stars, but some readers mentioned spelling mistakes and some editing issues. The first book, I know now, is not meant to be read by a lot of readers. Maybe later. Maybe once my tenth book has been written and readers are beginning to read my stuff. Maybe then. I’ve got a little time to bring it to an editor and polish it before that happens.

Pushing that button for the first book to go on Amazon was what I imagine it would have felt like for NASA to put the first man on the moon. It was epic. It was like the promise of the most spectacular fireworks in the history of fireworks, over Paris while standing on top of the Eifel Tower. Well… something must have gone wrong with the lighter or maybe the fuse got wet. There was one small fire cracker going off somewehre in the distance with a puff. Hugh Howey gave me a shout out on the day I published. I sold 25 copies that day. I was extatic. I thought that was it and that, from that day forward, I would be a world renowned author.

Hmm…

Dreams and expectations can coexist peacefully. I know that now.

Then came what I now call the Age of Oversharing (at least that was my perception of that time). I plastered facebook with quotes, links, (good) reviews, and whatever else I could find that had to do with my book. I was very excited and thought it wouldn’t hurt if others knew about it. I’m not sure if it did. I think there is a fine line between keeping readers and people informed and forcing someone to look at your posts several times a day. I’m still not sure where the line is but I’m more aware now and my outlook has changed since then.

My first book, The Three Feathers, sold about 450 paperbacks locally through my book store. That number is pretty high due to the fact that I visited about 15 schools in the last two years and did readings in 3rd through 5th grade classes. That must have been one of the highlights of the last two years in this my self appointed part-time job in indie publishing. For one of the author days I did, I received $1,200. Others I did for free. In some I sold two books, in others fourty. I made about $2,000 on the books I sold locally so far.

On Amazon, from May 2012 until and including June 2014, I made $350. Here is my sales chart from the last 90 days. The numbers on the left are units.

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So, I made about $3,500 in two years. Production costs for the three books I have out right now, were about $3,400. That does not include facebook adds. I am estimating that to be another $600 for the last 2 years which brings the whole number to about $4,000 in cost. This does NOT include the 50 paperbacks I gave away for free to friends, family and through giveaways.

Writing, right now, is a hobby and one that, besides taking up a good chunk of free time, isn’t that expensive. I see it as my apprentice years. In Germany, a large part of the educational system is based on apprenticeship. As an apprentice, you make very little money but you learn a tremendous amount about your craft which pays off in excellent jobs you can get once your apprenticeship has ended.

Where am I now?

I have learned an incredible amount of things in the last two years. A lot of that is, plain and simple, what NOT to do. But that’s just part of it all. There were many things that I did right as well and the learning curve has been steep. The one thing I know now, is that I should probably write roughly about one million words before even thinking about making a living as a writer. If it happens earlier, that’s fine but I’m in for the long haul so what’s 700,000 words among friends, right? That’s not that much in the grand scheme of things.

I know now that, besides that newsletter sign-up list everyone is talking about (I have 23 people on that list and roughly 50% of them actually open the thing), the back log of written books is the most important tool of my writing career. Keep writing the next story and don’t worry about present sales data. I’m still dreaming. Every day. But for now, I’m writing, working on getting closer to those one million words, honing my craft, becoming better and better, publishing all around higher quality products, and developing my voice, my individual voice as a writer.

That’s all.

A Back Yard Photo Shoot or How to Produce Your Own Indie Book Cover

In order for this to come out right and to show the process in its intirety, I need to go back forteen years, to the year 2000. I have recently been working on a novella called Dark World. I had first written it as a screenplay in 2002, as part of an online writing workshop with Writer’s Boot Camp. The screenplay was based on a poem written during a Creative Writing class in College two years earlier. Once the script was done, I sent it out to several producers. They basically told me that it was good but without “known source material,” a.k.a. an already published and well known novel or comic book, it was a hard sell. I shelfed it. Last year, during the 2013 NaNoWriMo, I dug it up and converted the screenplay into a 24,000 word novella of the same name. Here is the poem that became the seed for the story.

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The Writer’s Boot Camp screen writing workshop is six weeks long and leads the student through all stages of screen writing up to a completed first draft. They teach a lot about structure, down to a thirty-second elevator pitch that tells the story in one sentence. I highly recommend their workshops to anyone who wants to get into writing for the screen.

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After NaNoWriMo 2013, the first draft of the novella was completed and the document landed, again, in a file on my computer. In June of 2014, I took it back out to work on the second draft. During that process,  I began looking for images I could use for the cover. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money but still hoped to get a decent quality cover. I looked for an illustrator in some of the Facebook groups I knew. One of them was https://www.facebook.com/groups/BookCoversandCoverArtists/. I posted in it that I was looking for an inexpensive cover designer and received an email from Stina Rubio, an up-and-coming illustrator from California. She wanted to get her name out and agreed to do the cover for free, given that I’d provide the images from a stock photo site.

At that point, I had searched many sites for images of models I could use. I had a vision of how the cover should look but none of what I saw was right for it. Then I had a crazy idea: Mary Felice works in my favorite indie book store in the town I live in. I had just seen her during a reading I did there for The Fourth Sage. I knew she would make a perfect Amber for the cover of Dark World. I also somehow knew she would say yes even though I hadn’t asked her yet. Before I asked her, I asked my friend Maxine Rosola if she would do the make-up. She is a theater make-up artist and has worked on many local shakespeare plays and other theater productions in Woodstock and surrounding areas. She said yes. Then I asked Iszy Szemcsak (https://www.facebook.com/IszySzem), a high school student who is a truly gifted photographer, if she would take pictures. She said yes.

Finally, I went to the bookstore and asked Mary if she would be the model for my new book cover. She said yes. Actually, after a few “really?” and “are you serious?” she said “O my God, Yes!”. We booked a date a week later and everyone met in the afternoon in my backyard. I had bought a piece of muslin from a fabric store as a back drop. Iszy brought her camera, Maxine her (huge) make-up duffle bag and we started shooting.

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I mean, how cool is that! There is a photo shoot going on in my back yard, I’m having the time of my life, and all kinds of creative people do what they love to do. Doesn’t get much better than that. The amazing thing about self publishing is this – right here.

Here is a short video with clips of the shoot: Dark World Photo Shoot

Afterwards, the pictures who made it through the elimination process, ended up on Stina’s computer, together with my rough vision of what I had in mind. Stina is starting out as cover creator and hasn’t made a name for herself yet. Well, wait until you see the finished product. I don’t think she’ll have a problem getting work. Here is the picture that made it onto the cover:

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Mary looks so evil in it 🙂 And to think that she has no evil bone in her body whatsoever…

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Above, Maxine and Mary at the outset of the make-up application. Below, the sword was getting heavier… and heavier… as the day went on.

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Below, Izsy and Mary during the shoot.

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It was getting late 🙂 I love Mary’s expression in this one: “Leave me ALONE!”

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It was hard for Mary not to smile. That’s just not in her nature. So we tried to come up with things to upset her which basically ended up in all of us laughing.

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Being an indie author has its challenges. We are responsible for everytyhing related to what we put out. However, the creative freedom this brings with it, makes up for it many times over. If someone would have told me a few years ago that I’m going to have a photo shoot for the cover of my own book in my backyard, I would have said, “that’s crazy talk!” My suggestion is this: You can’t reach the stars if you don’t reach for them. They might be closer than you think.

Here now, the final cover for Dark World by Stina Rubio of Cover Lust Designs:

Below is the e-book cover. Nick Cole was kind enough to read an advanced copy and provide a quote. If you’re in New Paltz, NY, stop by at Inquiring Minds, an indie bookstore you’ll love. You might find Mary there. No sword, though. Just a smile.

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