What’s Your Pleasure?

“Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.”


Good morning, friends and followers!  Here we are again on another beautiful Wednesday morning, and once again I have to find something to write about; one must keep current if one wants to attract readers, you know!  I have decided to update and reprint an old post from a long-defunct blog that asks you to think about your place in this big, wonderful world of writers.  We’re all in it.  We all love it.  What do we do in it?

A number of events have transpired since I’ve been retired to impress upon me just what a hobbyist author I am…  Not that my sales figures don’t keep that fact firmly in front of my eyes!  But no, I speak of other things.  I have a friend and fellow author who told me that he is so thoroughly immersed in writing that he left the work force in order to follow that pursuit 8-12 hours a day.  Several people have informed me that a true writer can sit down and crank out 10,000 words at will, regardless of mood, illness, pain, surrounding aggravation, or whatever.  Last year I was approached for an interview by a host from an internet radio show who said I had been recommended to him by a mutual friend, and that was the catalyst that got me thinking about all this as a whole.

Basically, I had to ask myself what I have to say to an audience expecting a guest to provide them with some profound insight into the life and philosophy of a writer.  My honest answer has to be not much!  The last time something like this happened to me was in January of 2014.  Beyond the Rails had just been released, and I was offered a signing (not out of the blue; I had been talking with them before) at a local shop called Mysterious Galaxy, a San Diego bookstore specializing in fantasy and scifi.  I thought this was cool as all get out until I looked at their calendar.  In the month of January alone, they had scheduled a who’s who of the genres that included award-winners and best-sellers, some of whom had been my idols for years.  If I owned a bookstore, I would consider getting their January lineup to be the crowning year of my ownership.  And they were going shoehorn little ol’ me in between two giants of the field.  Yeah, no thanks.  The only question I could envision their sophisticated clientele asking me was, “How did you get in here?”  I passed, as I have passed on the radio show.  I’m not that guy.

You see, my life doesn’t revolve around writing.  Blasphemy, I know, but there are too many other things that life has to offer for me to spend 8-12 hours a day with my nose glued to this keyboard.  I have a family that I love very much.  I was just getting good at blues harmonica when I had to get an upper denture; I have a lot of work to do to get back to where I was, not to mention move beyond.  There are dozens of Xbox games I haven’t seen the end of, and hundreds, thousands of books and movies await my attention.  There are places to see, dishes to try, and this keyboard isn’t going to provide any of them.

Dude 4-16

Due to my lunatic sleep patterns, I rise hours before the rest of the household.  Well, except for Dude the Insane Beagle, and once I give him a couple of treats, he’s out for the duration.  Anyway, I typically have up to three hours to spend at the keyboard, and that’s plenty to pursue a hobby.  I can knock down a scene, turn out a blog post, or put up a review, and the girls never miss me, because they’re still asleep.  Anyway, that’s about all I can do in one sitting.  Right around the three-hour mark, my fingers go numb, my brain turns to mush, and anything I force myself to produce after that is just wasted material that I’m going to have to throw away anyway.

So you see, I’m a hobbyist.  Writing is one of many things I dabble in.  I don’t use professionals because I would be in the hole forever.  $500 for a cover would equate to a couple of decades before my book made enough money to break even.  I have a camera and some steampunk gadgets.  You can see pictures of the gadgets on the book covers; they were taken with the camera.  Likewise editors.  My wonderful beta readers catch most of my mistakes, and I’ve painstakingly taught myself the rules of grammar and composition.  I go with about three rewrites, after which I find I’m changing things back to the way I wrote them in the draft, and if the comments and reviews that the series has received are any indication at all, it’s working.

So, yes, I’m a hobbyist, and I’m good with that.  I still get goosebumps when I check my dashboard and discover a new sale, and the thrill of reading a good review is positively orgasmic!  I’m not convinced it would be the same if I was getting twenty a day.  Most of my author friends are young, and still have stars in their eyes.  I wouldn’t do a thing to take that vision from them, and I hope with all my heart that they succeed, but I’m where I want to be.  If the series suddenly takes off, I guess I’ll have to reevaluate, but I don’t anticipate it, and I’m not unhappy right now, today.  How many people can say that with a straight face?

View from the Blimp


To quote my childhood crush, Hayley Mills, “I just had the most scathingly brilliant idea!”  Observing what a big item the fantasy genre has become, it occurred to me that I could spread my name to a wider audience by publishing in that genre.  Accordingly, I dug out my old fantasy manuscript, The Wellstone Chronicles, polished it thoroughly for typos, grammar, and plot holes, and published it under the more appropriate title, The Stone Seekers.  It has done nothing, and I mean almost literally nothing, and part of this I lay on the doorstep of Goodreads.  They have a new-book promotion program that I used for all the Beyond the Rails books, and if huge sales weren’t generated, it at least made several hundred readers aware of their existence.  The program still exists, but now they want $119 for the basic, stripped-down model, and if prior experience is any guide, that’s about what your typical indie can expect to make in royalties over the lifetime of the book.  I already have the $119; why should I give it to someone else in the hope that I might someday just possibly, if everything goes right, earn it back?

All this talk of being a hobbyist notwithstanding, like any collector of stamps or breeder of dogs, part of the enjoyment of a hobby is sharing your accomplishments with others.  And that brings up the real problem that all indies face; in a word, advertising.  You could write the greatest book on earth, but if you aren’t independently wealthy, you just can’t get the word out.  I will, nonetheless, continue to advertise on various platforms, Facebook, my Goodreads blog, here, for which I have apologized in advance, but part of my reason for doing this is to sell books.  Along those same lines, I’m also no longer going to dilute my own efforts promoting authors who ignore my promotions when I post them; if you want your latest promotion to appear on my pages, then mine will have to appear on yours.  I’m sorry to have to be that way, but part of being a writer is selling books, which is a business, and I’m given to understand that to be successful in business, you have to eliminate the programs that aren’t working.

To get back on topic, though. I’m afraid if The Stone Seekers doesn’t generate some interest soon, I’m going to have to cut my losses and remove it from sale, because a book doing this badly can only hurt my reputation and harm my brand.  I’ll give it until August to move a few copies, after which it will vanish into history as a bad idea whose time never came…

The main project right now, and until it is finished, is The Darklighters: Hong Kong.  This is my Victorian-era steampunk Man from U.N.C.L.E., and is a spinoff from Beyond the Rails, continuing the adventures of Abigail “Jinx” Jenkins, who visited the Kestrel a couple of times, bringing her own rowdy brand of enthusiasm to that otherwise sane and sensible crew.  The first story is finished, and can be read in its entirety at the tab above.  When I have completed four more, they will be collected in a book of adventures connected by a story arc.  I am still taking applications for beta readers, and could use about four more.  Read the story above, and if it looks like it might be interesting to you, drop me a line and I’ll send you the particulars.

In Other News…


David Lee Summers is back with yet another story in yet another anthology.  After Punk is a collection of steampunk-themed stories dealing with various aspects of the afterlife.  I can’t yet endorse the collection, but I can whole-heartedly endorse David’s talents as a writer, and I will be acquiring this book for my own collection soon.  I guess that’s an endorsement in itself…



And that’s all I’ve got.  See you in couple of days with a new book ad!

10 thoughts on “What’s Your Pleasure?

  1. Hey Jack! I think it is all a matter of perspective. And the times in which we live. Take chess, for example. In the 19th century, no one would consider making one’s living from the game. Although Howard Staunton made some serious coin in his matches, he was also a Shakespearean scholar. It was Wilhelm Steinetz who promoted the idea of the professional chess player at the end of the century.

    When I wrote poetry, I quickly learned there is no money in it. Even poets who had volumes of their poetry published by the big presses, made virtually nothing off of those books. They all had other jobs to bring in the coin, usually in academia. One writes poetry for the love of it. There are no professional poets. If by professional we mean they make a living from the writing of poetry.

    And we all know that most fiction writers, don’t ever make enough to quit the day job. If they do, it is mostly because they’re willing to churn out books and stories at a dizzying rate and don’t give a serious rip about the quality. If it’s good enough, it’s publishable.

    Some fiction writers, though, do make serious coin. Some enough so they can quit the day job. Philip Dick was a full-time professional writer, and was always on the verge of poverty. Steven King is a different story. And Lawrence Block is in the middle.

    Quite honestly, I don’t think it matters: professional or hobbyist. Many hobbyist/amateur novelists have given us some great reads. Bram Stoker was an amateur. His principal job was assistant to actor Henry Irving and business manager of the theater Irving owned.

    When Rainer Maria Rilke told the young poet that one must look inside oneself to see if one must write, I don’t recall Rilke telling the young poet it had to be for a certain number of hours a day or to a certain word count. It was simply, Must I write? If the answer is, yes, then you must write. Period. Don’t let anything stop you. Near as I can tell, nothing has stopped you. 🙂

    I’d love to make some serious change at this writing gig. I probably never will. I don’t write what is the current hot cakes item. I write what I like to read, and what I like to read isn’t what most people are reading these days. Nevertheless, I approach writing as Anthony Trollope did. And he wrote for three hours a day and then went to work full-time at the post office. You’re in good company my friend. 🙂 We probably aren’t going to make the money Trollope did, but that’s a different issue. Trollope wrote part-time his whole life and yet made more money than most of the ones giving advice today have ever made. Money he could have easily lived off of and did once he retired.

    IMO, all this falderol about writing fiction that clogs up the ether, is best ignored. Just write. And live a good life. One that leaves you filled with peace. That’s my advice to writers everywhere.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Totally agree about the hobbyist thing. I like to daydream of being a big successful author, speaking publicly alongside the greats with great authority about how it all works. But the truth is even if I wanted that life, reality just gets in the way. I’ll probably never break out and hit it big (few ever do anyway) but I don’t plan to quit and it’s still plenty fun anyway!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey, CW, remember that time I took over your blog and wrote my own post?

      Seriously, though, this is a good one, and amplifies what I said in the first place. Ultimately, we each have a style that suits us, and it’s no good trying to change your nature. There’s no point in my trying to change you into a plotter, for example; it would just harm your final product. Likewise with making me a pantser. Likewise with making someone write a certain number of words or hours each day. Just write; some very sage advice. If you’re turning out work that people enjoy, you’re doing it right.

      Chris, I had that dream once. I caught it in my twenties when I thought my space opera was going to eclipse Star Trek, and held it, though it was gradually receding, for twenty years. I used to wonder whether I would actually move to New York, or just take the red-eye to grace an occasional talk show with my holy presence. Turned out to be neither, but I can’t deny that I’ve had a great deal of enjoyment out of being known around my community and the internet as a writer. I always joke that one month my book royalties paid for my internet bill, but it has enriched my life in ways that can’t be monetized. I hope you guys can say the same!

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave your thoughts; this is a big part of the enrichment!


  3. I don’t think you should remove anything from sale; it should stay up if it’s publishable quality. People will discover you at odd times. If you remove the book – I wouldn’t worry about ‘people’ even knowing your reputation enough to associate it with one series vx. another – no serendipity can happen.

    Since I’m still looking for my serendipity, and want to be ready, I see no major reason to remove my links to Wattpad – and have a new reader there just today.

    Ditto, my Patreon has very few fans – but it’s all set up if I ever get more of them. Those people will get Book 2 first. And keep me writing. My first one has been invaluable.

    Stay the course – and be sure your family knows about your intellectual property, where it is, and is allowed to manage it later – you could be supporting a great-grandchild’s college some day.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This whole article, and the comments under it, have been such a treat to my mind, and hope to my heart, Jack. I am sure going to bookmark it, and keep it handy for my days when I need to work out on my place when it comes to writing.

    Though, I have saved it for a full-fledged of mine that I’ll post someday, I’d share a bit of it here with you. I’ve been through all the phases of a storyteller, a writer- days when I dreamed of gaining a humongous list of followers on my social media profiles, days when I questioned the quality of bestsellers’ books and wondered “What do people really see in them?”, days when I wanted to come up with a theme as relatable as J.K. Rowling’s, days when I dreamed of having my name among those successful authors who rose to fame because of their wonderful stories despite having a day-job, days when I wanted to have maximum views of my story (that I post on my blog) for it bled my heart while being penned down- this is quite a range, isn’t it?

    And now, where am I, you may be tempted to ask. I’m going to tell you anyway. As of this date, all I want to is write and write till it contends my heart and speaks to my soul.

    Not that I don’t want to be loved and appreciated and acknowledged by my readers for my content, I’d be lying on your face to say that; appreciation of one’s efforts gratifies a human’s soul. But getting published has not remained the sole intent of my writing now; it has become something that I do other than my day-job, something that I do for myself, something that only I’m responsible for- be it its success or its failure.

    It might be too early to say all this, I don’t know. But these are my current thoughts. They might change in future; they might not too.

    PS- I agree with most of the bloggers (writers) here, please do not remove your published book. You never know when the day will turn out to be yours. Keep the hope, maybe not too high (as that might hurt you if the wait was not worth it), but do keep it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome, Aditi; it’s so good to see you here! Allow me to introduce my dear friend from India, by way of writing.com. We’ve known each other for just over a year, and have shared many a long conversation. Idle Muser is about a third my age, but when spirits align, time ceases to be a factor.

      As you have seen, the people who follow and comment on this blog are some of the best. Even those who disagree with me do so in a logical, rational, cordial manner; I have never had a visit from a troll, and never had to remove a comment because it was too nasty for public consumption. It is my honor to welcome you to this little band of brothers and sisters, and my hope that you will be a frequent participant.

      You’ve been through the whole range early. We all start out, I think, emulating our favorite blockbuster and dreaming of a life of wealth spent on the Manhattan cocktail party circuit. Once life beats that out of you, you have to find your own reasons for continuing; the easy-money crowd quits right around this point, but I think that if you are a true writer, the reason you continue is that you can’t not do it. When I was your age, an unpublished writer could share his work with family (who was obligated to read it and tell you how good you were), friends (who were in the same category to a lesser degree), and coworkers (who thought you were nuts, pretentious, or both); that was enough to sustain us. Nowadays, with free publishing-on-demand, blogs, web pages and the like, we have access to a lot more people. The results seem to be about the same, though.

      But we press on. There are stories in our heads, clawing at the back of our eyes to get out. and we have to let them out because it’s dangerous to our health not to. Once we lose the glittering vision, we can get serious about putting our true voice on the page, because it isn’t about appealing to the masses anymore. I think some of the best work is written by authors who don’t care who reads them.

      Yes, your views are going to change. I’m leaning hard on 70, and my views still change, sometimes a couple of times a week. Don’t worry about that. Be true to yourself, and get through today. If you feel different tomorrow, embrace the new you. You don’t have to look much further than this five-month old blog to see me questioning my ability, and even my desire to write. But you know what? You don’t choose writing; writing chooses you, and once you’re chosen, you’re writing. I’m not producing new material right now, but when I’m idly musing (see what I did there?) I’m not thinking about my Skyrim campaign, or the latest episode of Murdoch Mysteries; the thoughts that occupy my head are of stories virtually writing themselves, and insisting on being told. So fear not, my young friend, my books will stay on sale. That just isn’t my primary focus anymore; it’s much more important that that!

      You seem to be in a good place, and I’m gratified to hear it. I’m wishing you all the success you could want, in whatever form you want, and hope to see you around here classying up the joint from time to time! Have a wonderful week; read well, and write better!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Apologies on my part for being such a sloth, Jack. Replying to such a thoughtful welcoming comment after almost a month. And even then writing to inform that your post has given me ample amount of thoughts to sort, and, thus, a full-fledged article to write. Which would, of course, have your name mentioned in it. And that blogpost would have my response to your this comment.

        Thanks for the beautiful introduction though. I’m busy down here trying to find a new job, and thus, couldn’t find time to read more of your posts and explore your fellow-bloggers’ blogs. Will be on it, as soon as get done with the pressing tasks at hand.

        PS- Another e-mail on its way. Soon.


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