10 Great Truths About Making A Living As A Writer. Okay, turn it up to 11.

Things I’ve learned over 30 years of writing for a living.

  1. You constantly hear “No one makes a living writing novels.” I’ve heard it for decades. In 2012 I was at a conference where I gave a keynote, then was listening to another keynote speaker, David Morrell of Rambo fame, saying “Don’t quit your day job”. And it started to worry me, until I realized my day job was writing. So I didn’t quit. Besides, I’d been in Special Forces and done the Rambo thing as my day job too. Nobody shoots at you while you’re writing. Usually.
  2. It’s the best time ever to be a writer. I’ve heard all sorts of gloom and doom, but I can honestly say, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time because the distance between you and your reader is the Internet. That’s not to say it isn’t an extremely confusing time. The deluge of content has leveled the playing field once more and it comes down to the eternal truth: tell a good story. Don’t focus on all the gimmicks of marketing. WRITE A GOOD STORY.
  3. There is more information than ever before out there. Which could be bad too, but seriously, you can garner a wealth of information about the craft and business of writing without leaving home.
  4. Leave home. One of the greatest mistakes I made in my early writing career was not networking. Even in self/indie publishing, it’s key to network with people. I know you’re an introvert (the least likely of the 16 character types on the Myers-Briggs is INFJ, which they kindly labeled: Author), but get out there and talk to people. It’s a people business. And network with a couple of other serious writers on your craft. I’m not a fan of large writers groups getting together and doing line by lines, but 2 or 3 serious writers working on story, like we do at Writing Scenic is invaluable. Find better writers than you to work with.
  5. Writers support writers. Mostly. I advise writers to join their local RWA (Romance Writers of America) chapter. It’s the most professional writing organization around and your local chapter has tons of expertise and friendly people and monthly workshops.
  6. It’s about story not the book. Change your frame of reference. I sell stories. In various modes: digital, audio and print. Wrap your brain around that concept. It’s about the content not the format! I market using . . .
  7. Slideshare (lots of them), blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc. all from home. I used to not be a fan of book trailers, and while I don’t think they do much direct selling, they increase your digital footprint. And they’re cool. It’s not about gimmicks, its about having SEO. Today, it’s not about distribution as much as it is about discoverability. They can’t buy you if they can’t find you.
  8. The framework of the story is evolving in the digital age. Since you can self-publish just about anything, you aren’t constrained creatively. I think self-pubbing is doing what the cable networks did to TV. HBO broke ground on new formats for series and characters. Sopranos, The Wire, and Deadwood. Other networks have picked it up. Have you seen Westworld? My brain exploded on that pilot episode– ah The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind— the book my wife and I bonded over. The Expanse? Science fiction is taking advantage of new technologies in film-making, but it’s always the story! I love studying story and then playing with it.
  9. You can study story in books, but also on Netflix, HBO, Showtime, etc and On-Demand. Watch everything twice. The first for enjoyment of the story and characters and to learn what happens. The second time is the key as a professional writer. Because you know what’s going to happen, now you can see how the writers crafted the story and characters . The second time is eye-opening. If Marie hadn’t stolen that damn state spoon in Breaking Bad, Hank would still be alive and the story would have gone in a completely different direction. Get it? You didn’t the first time you saw it and probably forgot that little event. The second time, it looms large.
  10. Bottom line: The only person who can stop your success is you.

And #11, because Spinal Tap says go to 11. Do you understand your creative process? We focus a lot on craft and business at writers conferences and workshops but not enough on how we actually create and that is the core of our profession. We must go from being craftspeople to artists. Lately my wife and I have focused more and more on how we create. How the mind works. Some of this has developed from working with other writers one on one and via our Writing Scenic Workshops. Process is more important to understand than anything else.

Which means, since writers aren’t in the bell curve, and we’re not necessarily on the good side of the bell curve, that you need a good therapist!

Nothing but good times ahead!

A New Blog, A Rainy Sunday, Rabbit Ears, a free bundle, and Cool Gus

It’s pouring here in Knoxville. Cool Gus is a bit damp and has that unique wet dog smell. He’s carrying a small stuffed rabbit in his mouth in this picture– no harm done. He can carry an egg in his mouth and not break it. Very talented, he is. Last weekend visiting the kids, I advised my son he needs to talk to the grandsons like Yoda, with the key word at the end. Instead of “Don’t put that in your mouth, Haydn!” he needs to say “In your mouth, Haydn, don’t!” Because I think Haydn only hears the last word.

This is my new blog at bobmayer.com, so if you were subscribed to writeritforward I’m going to try to figure out how to forward you to this, but otherwise if you want to subscribe you can start anew– I even figured out, with Cool Gus’ help, to put the widget for signing up to the right. And to celebrate I’m doing a special only on the blog and in my Facebook A-Team: a free bundle every Sunday for the next couple of months.

Today it’s Military Science Fiction 1 which consists of two books that predict the future of warfare in two directions: genetics and the power of the mind. If you’re a fan of The Expanse (damn good) or Legion you will like these.

Synbat is about splicing together the perfect soldier

Psychic Warrior is about using the mind, going into the virtual plane and re-assembling in the real world at a distant point. It’s based on a real program we had in Special Forces called Trojan Warrior. My team took all the tests. I’m okay. Really. I don’t have two stuffed rabbit ears sticking out of my mouth at least.

I’m wrapping up Valentines Day for publication on 13 May. Tomorrow I’ll be making an announcement on the book I am already working on– not part of the Time Patrol series but rather another series fans have been asking for. Also, I’ll be announcing a contest for those of you artistically inclined. No, Cool Gus doesn’t need his portrait done. Although here is what it might look like.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend and enjoying their Sunday. Good thoughts to those who have to work today, especially those who do the jobs that make a difference in lives such as doctors, nurses, police, fire, military, dog owners, and others!

Nothing but good times ahead!

“The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, as Narrated by Himself.” Precursor to Uncle Tom’s Cabin

“I will conclude my narrative by simply recording my gratitude, heartfelt and inexpressible, to God, and to many of my fellow-men, for the vast improvement in my condition, both physical and mental; for the great degree of comfort with which I am surrounded; for the good I have been enabled to effect; for the light which has risen upon me; for the religious privileges I enjoy, and the religious hopes I am permitted to cherish; for the prospects opening to my children, so different from what they might have been; and, finally, for the cheering expectation of benefiting not only the present, but many future generations of my race.”

It is commonly accepted that Josiah Henson’s autobiography was the source for Harriett Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. So much so that later in life, he changed the title to: Autobiography of Josiah Henson: An Inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom.

He was a remarkable man who fought against overwhelming odds, not only to free himself, but to help others.His story was the most intriguing one among all my research for Ides of March (free on all ebook platforms)

As usual, I was focused on something else: George Washington’s speech to his mutinous officers on the Ides of March 1783. I came across Josiah Henson’s book. It drew me in so much, that it changed what I was writing. To tell you much more would be too much of a spoiler; regardless, I recommend reading Mr. Henson’s book to grasp a society we are not many generations removed from. And remember that people are not that much different, both good and bad.

I fear too often when we look at history or other cultures, we think those people are somehow ‘different’ than we are. That what happened then or there is out of the realm of possibilities for us. Whether it be pre-Civil War America, the Roman Empire, Nazi Germany, or any era or place. Given the right circumstances, people can do extraordinary things, both good and bad. These lessons are a driving force that keep me writing, trying to bring history to life and showing the ethical and moral issues that penetrate all aspects of it!

Facts about John F. Kennedy, Mary Meyer, Khrushchev and more

I rest my fiction on a foundation of facts.  Often I write a novel because I find a series of facts so intriguing, I have to investigate further.  For  The Kennedy Endeavor, these are just a few of the more obscure facts (beyond the history of The Cuban Missile Crisis, etc.):

Kennedy gave a speech to the United Nations referring the nuclear Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.

OIeg Penkovsky was a real person.  It is uncertain whether he was a traitor or patriot to the Soviet Union, but he was executed either in the horrifying manner depicted in this book or by firing squad on 16 May 1963.  He might well have been the man who saved the world from nuclear war.

Anastas Mikoyan did represent Khrushchev at JFK’s Funeral.  He did talk in the Rotunda with Mrs. Kennedy and she did mention the Endeavor that her husband and Khrushchev had been involved in. Green Berets were flown up from Fort Bragg to be part of the Honor Guard.  As a former Green Beret, Kennedy is revered among our ranks because he was the man who made the beret official and he recognized the need for such a unit and highly trained men.

The United States did position a battery of 15 Jupiter Missiles with nuclear warheads in Turkey, well before the Soviets tried to put missiles into Cuba.  They were supposedly withdrawn as part of the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Soviet General on the ground in Cuba had complete authority to use the tactical nuclear weapons under his command, an almost unheard of granting of powers.

During World War II, Khrushchev’s son, Leonid, was either killed in action as a pilot or executed by Stalin.  The records are unclear. Khrushchev’s “Secret” Speech on 25 February 1956 denouncing Stalin turned the Soviet Union on its ear.  It’s reported some delegates left the 20th Party Congress and committed suicide.

No one has a complete map of the warren of tunnels underneath New York City and no one knows all of it.  The City Hall station is still used as a turnaround for the #6 train, but has not been an active station since the end of World War II.

marymeyerMary Meyer (on the right in the photo) was JFK’s mistress and did know Timothy Leary.  It’s reported she dropped acid with President Kennedy. A black man was arrested for Mary Meyer’s murder, but his attorney got him acquitted as there was no evidence.  The bullet to the heart and bullet to the head is indicative of a professional assassin.

Half Light, painted by Mary Meyer, is in the Smithsonian Archives.

Jesus James Angleton was one of the most intriguing characters of the Cold War.  The movie The Good Shepherd starring Matt Damon is loosely based on his life.  He was the first one in Mary Meyer’s house searching for her diary after she was killed.

Khrushchev was removed from power the day after Mary Meyer was murdered.

25 November used to be wildly celebrated in New York City as Evacuation Day until Lincoln started Thanksgiving.

In 2009 Contractors accounted for 48% of the Department of Defense workforce in Iraq and 57% in Afghanistan.

The USS Beale incident, where a Soviet captain wanted to launch a nuclear torpedo on the American destroyer harassing his ship, only truly came to light thirty years later.  Strangely, though, the 1965 movie, The Bedford Incident, mirrored these events.

My wife was present as a young girl in Berlin and heard Kennedy’s Ich Bin ein Berliner speech.  I was in the Bronx, learning duck and cover. The original notes for Kennedy’s autopsy have been lost. The removal of Kennedy’s body from Texas before an autopsy was performed violated Texas law.

Mary Meyer was Mary Meyer.  She lived by her own rules until she was murdered.

The Kennedy Endeavor