Joshua C Cook

Author, Husband, Father, IT Manager

Social Media, I’m not good at it.

So… it’s been a while oh Blog of Mine. I’ve also been sparse on Facebook page updates, Tweeting, and forget my never used Instagram account. Here’s why…

I’m bad at social media in terms of my writing. I just am. I have a few ideas as to why however.

 

  1. Age. I’m 43. While not ‘old’ at least in my head not old, I grew up in a different time. The idea of constantly broadcasting my thoughts, hopes, irritations of writing holds no appeal to me. I find myself having to FORCE myself to do updates. For personal stuff I do updates a lot, but that’s personal. Those are family, and good friends. It is, to me, ‘different’.
  2. Not having anything overly interesting to say. While I’m working on a book (or books) I don’t have anything other to say than ‘Hey, still writing.’
  3. I’m not a conversation starter. One of the things I know about myself is I’m not a person who likes to start a conversation. I’ll gladly join in, adding anything I can that’s relevant, and somethings that aren’t if I get to rambling. But I starting that off isn’t my thing. It works this way in face to face stuff as well. I’ll smile and nod, but very rarely actually talk first.

All of this makes social media ‘outreach’ hard for me. I know other people who are trying the writing game who can post 25-30 times a day and seem to have no issue with it. Me? I usually rewrite a tweet 40 times if I’m starting it, and half the time delete and send nothing thinking ‘That’s stupid.’

I’m not anti-social, though I am an introvert. But I have always found that aspect of the writing game hard. It’s probably why I find marketing hard. I simply think that anything I might write about when I’m not doing a release or a cover reveal, or anything like that to be kind of pointless. I know it’s not ACTUALLY pointless, but my built in reaction is “No one wants to hear this.”

I wish I was better at it. Maybe I’d sell more books, or have a better platform when I DO a release.

I’m going to attempt to do better.. but I’ve said that before.

I’ve tried various software tools to automate it more before. Auto twitter posts, Facebook page posts, something, anything… but it boils down to me just not being.. excited by it. Interested in it.

So..anyone got any advice?

 

–Josh

 

Blood of a Fallen God. News, and bits of Information.

Blood of a Fallen God has somehow become my ‘fantasy magnum opus’ in terms of both size and detail. I literally have 33 pages of notes about the world, character relations, and timelines so I can keep everything both clear to me, and much more importantly, clear to the reader. The last thing I want is to fall into what I call the ‘War and Peace’ model of fantasy writing where the reader can never figure out who a character is or why it’s important.

Because of this #BOAFG (My self made Blood of a Fallen God hashtag..) will have a glossary, if only to help make things clear to the reader.  Which of course brings forth a whole new set of thought questions about what do I make sure is in the glossary and what can I safely leave out. Gah!

Anyways, besides the actual story, I should be getting the maps finalized soon. I’ve decided to share ONE of the three maps when that happens. Also, mostly because I want to, I will be doing a daily tweet about a single god in this fantasy world I’ve created. I started today May 11, 2017 with the big bad himself, Valnijz.

But JUST in case someone see’s this and didn’t see that..

Valnijz: The Scaled One, God of Blood and Rage. The Destroyer. One of the two ‘dead’ gods, Valnijz still has a very large cult like religion utterly devoted to him. More like a death-cult than anything else, they seek more than anything to return Valnijz to life for the sole purpose of killing all of those who do not follow him.

 

Blood of a Fallen God has in many ways stretched me as a writer.  It also has made me realize I owe a thought of apology to writers like George RR Martin and the late Robert Jordan. Epic fantasy takes, more than anything, TIME. And lots of it.  Next post, will cover Amder, the God of Craft and Creation. Maybe the map reveal as well, if it’s ready.

Keep reading, writing and enjoying life!

 

–Josh

 

P.S. If you are looking for something to read… don’t forget the Bridgefinders books!

Where have I been?

So where have I been? I’ve not updated the blog in over a month, Facebook as well. There’s been a couple of things going on, and though there’s not a lot of people who visit this tiny corner of the web, hey it’s my tiny corner, and I’ll share!

  1. Work – I currently have a great job, and I mean that. I work as one of two IT support people at a Tax/Bookkeeping/Auditing group here in Florida. However,  until last week it was ‘Tax Season’ which is usually the most busy part of the year.  I wanted to keep up with things, and I did at first. Tax season runs from January through to Mid April. Sadly for me, the closer we got to the tax deadline day, things got busier, so no blog updates, and very little social media items done.
  2. Allergies/illness – So as I mentioned I live in Florida. Seasonal allergies aren’t anything new here, but this year was a beast. Much worse than normal, and I spent two  plus weeks coughing up a lung and blowing my nose every 10 minutes to breathe. Not fun, not pleasant, and not overly conducive for writing, or again social media. All better now, thanks to the end of ‘Pollen Hell 2017’
  3. The Wall – This was the final reason. I hit a wall. Meaning a combination of poor book sales and writers block made me so profoundly unmotivated to do anything with my writing for a bit. I simply did not care, nor did I have the energy to move through it at the time. The good news is that I’m past that now. I had some sales (unexpected and happily.) and I got through my writers block.

 

Blood of a Fallen God is back on track, and I’m working to get this first draft done and put away. I’ve some cover stuff to look into, maps to finish off, and a few other things. I’ve also got Book THREE ( I like saying that, hence the caps) in the Echo Worlds series to finish, and then that stand alone book called ‘Timetable 93’

So I’m back, I’ll update the blog at least twice a month moving forward, and try to be more active on twitter and my Facebook page.

Here’s to taking that next step!

So that’s where I’ve been.

Epic Fantasy

Epic Fantasy is a bit different animal than what I’ve written before, and maybe that’s why the current book is slowing growing into a beast. The current main book I’m working on (interspersed with working on Book three of The Echo Worlds.) is now called “Blood of a Fallen God.” It’s an idea that’s morphed and changed a bit from my initial thoughts, when it was going to be called Forgemaster.

I actually have an old post about that name, as I was going to write this a while back. However I hit writers block, and wasn’t sure where I wanted to take the story, so as with other things, it got shelved for a time. But now it’s back, but changed. I’ve only used a tiny bit of what I wrote before so far, I may incorporate other parts later I’m not sure. But the main thrust is somewhat the same. I think that one of the reasons Epic Fantasy is a bit of a bear in terms of length is the world building. Even in the Echo World series, I’m building an ‘add-on’ to our world, not creating a whole new thing. I’m finding that giving background without throwing a huge multiple page explanation of what is what and why it’s there to be a different sort of challenge. I’m enjoying it, but trying to figure out how to explain what the Mistlands are, who Amder is, who Valnijz is, all of that and doing it by weaving it in and out of the dialogue and action to be mentally taxing at times.

As a result, this thing is being a beast. It’s looking like the first draft will be in the 150-165 thousand words range. Which is by far larger than what I’ve done in the past. I’m sure edits will change those numbers, but still, it’s a beast. The current target is to have the first draft of this done by the end of March, and the first draft of book three of the series done by the end of April. I’m actually shooting to get three books out this year, which is doable, though editing this thing is going to kill me.

To help with all this I’ve finally started doing ‘writing sprints’ Free flow writing for a set amount of time twice a day. I always resisted doing do for reasons I’m not clear on now, and I’ve found it very helpful with getting things down on the paper. It’s also helped me not do the ‘editing while writing’ habit I was finding myself falling into. If for that reason alone I’m happy with the new method (for me.) of getting it done.

I’ve got some good cover ideas for this book (Blood of a Fallen God, aka BOAFG.) but not sure how to realize them yet. But since I don’t even have the first draft done yet, I’m ok with not knowing.  Sales have still been stinky on the books that are out there, they fell off in September and have yet to recover. I’ve tried various things to tweak them, but nothing doing. The dream of course is that this book gets selected for Kindle Scout, get’s published by Amazon’s fantasy imprint, and ALL the books start selling better. That’s the dream at least. All I can do is try to create the best stories I can, and get them out there.

 

 

Updates For February

So February has rolled around, and it’s as good as time as any to see where I am for this years goals so far, and what has been getting in the way of making more progress, if anything.

  1. Blood of a Fallen God – This is moving forward, though not quite as fast as I’ve hoped. The main issue though is just day to day life has been a bit busier than I thought it would be. But I AM making progress on the first draft.
  2. Bridgemaker – The third book in the Echo Worlds series. I’ve really fallen behind on this one. I’m not good at working on more than one book at a time I’ve discovered, so I think I’ll pause on this one until I get the first draft of BOAFG done.
  3. Outline for other book. – I’ve worked out a short outline for a story called ‘Timetable 93’ I’m really not sure if this will be a short story, or something longer, but we will see.

 

On top of working on the first draft of BOAFG, I’ve been brainstorming cover ideas. I THINK I’ll need to work with an artist to get what I want for the actual art though, so looking into that. If anyone reading this has any suggestions please (like really, please!) reach out to me.

Other news:

  1. The scammers I mentioned so many times before had another run in with a different person, and lo and behold I got mentioned and had a huge spike in blog attendance, though it was short lived.
  2. Unsure if what happened after was related, but I found it amusing. I got a message via email, through the blog from someone claiming to be another author. This person said they had read some of what I’ve done and had a suggestion. The suggestion was to give up. Stop writing, pull what I had written off Amazon, and stop pushing ‘total crap’ so ‘better authors than you can get attention.’ They also proceeded to say that people like me were what was causing them to sell less by flooding the market with junk, and it was making it harder for ‘True talent’ like theirs to get noticed.

 

I have no idea if I’m talented as a writer. I don’t think in those terms, and never have. I write for me. I write because I enjoy the act of it. I write because I like sharing the stories. Sure, I’d love it if they sold better, who wouldn’t want another income stream? But that’s not WHY I write. So no, I won’t give up and go away.

That’s all for now, and I need to go work on BOAFG, I’m behind for the  word count for the week. 😉

Kindle Scout

Kindle Scout. I’ve said it before, but this is one of my main goals this year, to not only put a book up for consideration, but to get selected and publish through it.

But what IS Kindle Scout? And why do I want to pursue that route? What good is it?

So unless your a writer (or like me, a writer-wannabe) you may not quite grasp how large Amazon’s hold on the Indie publishing game is. While there are other players, Amazon hold a HUGE market share advantage. It’s kind of just the way it is. That being said, with the sheer massive volume of eBooks being published now via the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) being an indie author is not something to hang a lot of hopes on in terms of monetary rewards. I’ve read that nearly 1.1 million eBooks come out every year on Amazon. There’s a TON of competition. And since your ‘ranking’ on Amazon depends on sales, if your book doesn’t sell, your ranking drops, which means your books become effectively invisible. People don’t tend to scroll past the first 2 pages at most, and truthfully most stop at one.

So self-publishing is an uphill climb, at least if your looking or exploring for monetary gains. I write because I enjoy it, and telling stories is something I do to feed a more creative part of me, monetary rewards are in fact nice to have. After the rather dismal launch of Bridgebreaker (ZERO pre-sales regardless of advertising, worst books sales period, of any book I’ve done, mixed with what in fact are the best reviews I’ve gotten…) all my sales have kind of flat lined.

So what does this all have to do with Kindle Scout?

Kindle Scout is a different path. See Amazon has a book publishing arm! And I don’t mean KDP. Amazon has their own line of book imprints. Publishing groups that publish books, and promote them. And how they ‘choose’ books is a bit different.

See if I wanted to go the traditional route of publishing, I’d need to write letters, synopsis’s, have to pitch my book to someone, send full or partial manuscripts, all that. The thought of doing that, any of that, makes my stomach churn. And truthfully, I dislike the ‘single gatekeeper’ idea, that one person can make or break a book form being published, or at least getting a foot in the door.

Kindle Scout however allows an author to:

  1. Take a completed story and cover, and upload it to the Scout website. There READERS can read a section, and vote up or down a book. Get enough votes, and then the Amazon team will look at it, and decide if they want to publish the story. If they do, that’s it, your chosen! Note: They will do some editing work, or book cover changes with the author from what I understand and what others have told me.
  2. One chosen and changes (if any) are made and approved, the book is published under an Amazon imprint. This is NOT self-publishing.
  3. Advantages
    1. – Guaranteed advance & competitive royalties: Kindle Press offers a $1,500 advance and 50% eBook royalty rate. Royalties will be paid monthly.– Focused formats: Kindle Press acquires worldwide publication rights for eBook and audio formats in all languages. Authors retain all other rights, including print.

      – 5-year renewable terms, $25,000 in royalties: If a book doesn’t earn $25,000 in royalties during an author’s initial 5-year contract term, or any 5-year renewal term after that, the author can choose to stop publishing with us.

      – Easy rights reversions: After two years, rights for any format or language that remains unpublished, or all rights to any book that earns less than $500 in total royalties in the preceding 12-month period, can be reverted upon request — no questions asked.

      – Early downloads & reviews: One week prior to release date, everyone who nominated a book that is published by Kindle Press will receive a free copy and be invited to leave reviews.

      – Featured Amazon marketing: Kindle Press books will be enrolled and earn royalties for participation in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited as well as be eligible for targeted email campaigns and promotions.

Those are some nice perks!

So coming soon I’ll be trying to get ‘Blood of a Fall God’ accepted on Kindle Scout. I’ll let everyone know when.

2017 Goals

2017 Goals. Weird thing to be saying to me, if only because of the year. Like most kids I wondered from time to time what the future would bring, and here it is, 2017, and I still am not sure what the future is bringing! It’s a new year though, and so, new resolutions. Before I jump into this years goals, I’m going to look back at last years. in 2016 I had three main goals in terms of writing at least.

  1. Get two books out – I did this, Bridgefinders and Bridgebreaker.
  2. Do more YouTube videos – Forget it. I just hate doing them.
  3. Learn Photoshop more – Successful, and redid my covers for the aforementioned two books.

So 2 outta 3. I’ll take it.

2017 Goals are somewhat different, but only somewhat.

  1. Get two books out. – Working on it. I’m currently working on two books. The third book in ‘The Echo Worlds’ series, and a stand alone book.
  2. Get the standalone book accepted on Kindle Scout – I’ll write on this more later on, but I’ve decided to try for a chance to get a book published under the Amazon publishing arm. It can’t hurt, and it would be very awesome to get it.
  3. Control costs. – I picked writing as a creative outlet at least somewhat because I didn’t see it as a costly thing, financially. But it can be, and can add up quickly. In 2017 I really need to control costs and not throw good money away. the primary question ‘Is this going to have tangible benefits?’ before spending on it.

So those are the three 2017 Goals. Let’s see how it goes!

And remember as always, follow me on twitter, sign up for newsletter, like the page on Facebook, all that stuff. That way you’ll know what’s going on in my writing world.The icons to take you to those places are right there on the main page. Thanks!

 

New Book Covers

Book Covers are an interesting thing. Everyone has an opinion on what makes a book cover ‘good.’ A fact that has recently been underscored by the feedback I’ve gotten about the new covers I’ve done on both Bridgefinders, and Bridgebreaker. Some really like them, some say they are to simple and plain, some say the old covers were better, etc.  Now I did get some actual input that was useful, clarify the fonts, make the title stand out more, etc. I took those to heart, and those were useful.

I should first say WHY I made new covers. I want to start off by saying that the cover guy I had been using, S.A. Hunt is a great and very talented guy. None of this is a reflection on him or his work. I think it’s a far safer assumption to say that I didn’t know what I wanted, so I just went with whatever he came up with. And he came up with some nice stuff. Very nice. The issue however was that over time I realized that the direction we had taken wasn’t what I really wanted for the covers. I made a list of what I like in covers of books I enjoy…

  1. Simple – I don’t like covers with a bunch of stuff going on. I want it to have a central ‘theme’. Interesting, but doesn’t give to much away.
  2. Must give a hint however of what the story is about. – While I don’t want to give away the farm, I hate covers that look interesting, but when you read the story you can’t find any connection to the actual story or characters.

That was it, not much of a list, right?

With that limited criteria in mind I decided I wanted new book covers for the first two books in The Echo Worlds series. But it’s the holidays, money is a bit tight… so paying someone to make new covers wasn’t going to be easy. On top of it I still wasn’t sure what I wanted.

Then it hit me, I would make the covers myself! Then self-doubt hit me, I don’t know a single damn thing about graphic design, how Photoshop or whatever other program people use actually works. I thought it about, vacillating between knowing I could do it, and thinking it would be a total disaster. That being said, I finally decided to get a trail version of Photoshop CC, watch a bunch of YouTube video’s on how to do stuff in Photoshop, and see what I could come up with.

My first effort, while not in use and not very good proved to me that I COULD do it, and that I really needed to know what I actually wanted.  After brainstorming, I went ahead and got the 9$ a month subscription, and started trying things.. and slowly, surely I had new book covers. I think they both show what the book is about, without hitting you over the head with it.

I’ve submitted the changes to Amazon for the eBooks, Createspace for the paperbacks, and ACX/Audible for the audiobooks. The changes are propagating through the systems, so the new covers will be showing up across the platforms, soon. And oh.. here’s the new covers!

Cover for Book 2

Cover for Book 1

Elves? We don’t need no stinkin’ Elves!

Elves. One of the largest fantasy ‘tropes’ out there. I use them to, though mine are a bit more sinister than the ‘high fantasy’ types of Elves. That being said, I just ran across a great TEDx talk from Terry Brooks, titled ‘Why I write about Elves.”

Now, I have read some of Terry Brook‘s work. Not much as of late, and honestly after this talk I think I may pick up some of his stuff again, because I want to see what he’s talking about from my newer ‘writer’ persona. Mr. Brooks makes a good point about taking things out of our world, and translating them to a fantasy world for the purpose of giving writing some weight. Having been a reader of fantasy for more years than I care to mention, there are far to many fantasy books out there that don’t have any substance. There’s a story there sure, but it’s such a surface thing, and it’s highly highly formulaic. I’ve seen other videos and read books where it’s “Hero, artifact, quest.” that’s it.

And yes, that’s basic fantasy, but if that’s ALL that’s there, it makes for a bit of a dull read. Take Tolkien, at first glance it seems like a very light story, hobbit takes ring, destroys it to save the world from evil monster spirit thing.

But that’s only a slight reading of Tolkien. And yes, the movies (which I greatly enjoy, I have the extended releases for all of them.) sort of made it worse. But there are a LOT of environmental themes (Tom Bombadil, Mordor itself, the Scourging of the Shire, etc.) the overarching theme of the passing of ‘old world’ of magic and superstition to the world of men and technology, etc.

Good fantasy books carry this additional under story out there to the reader, to give them something to latch on to. Even in Tolkien’s work, Elves are portrayed as a very powerful, but old and vanishing race. Leaving the world of Middle Earth to return to their far away true home. In truth the Elves of Tolkien carry a fairly melancholy background, full of betrayal, racism, and tragedy.

I think the point Terry Brooks makes is a very good one, fantasy writers or truly any fiction writer, needs to give thought to giving the reader something real to latch onto, something they can translate to the real world, or even thier own personal experiences. I’ve linked the talk at the end here, it’s a great short video.

 

November Update

November is here, and I’ve been slacking! Well not slacking really, but slacking on blog updates. So what’s been going on?

  1. Election: It happened. That’s all I’m going to say about it right now. In a former version of myself I was a political junkie. I moderate myself on that stuff these days for ‘reasons’
  2. Book promos: I ran a Book Gorilla promo, and did a two week blog tour. I got 14 sales and 1000 pages read out of the BookGorilla promo, but still ended up being a net negative. The book blog tour… well.. it was ok. But I didn’t really get much out of it, no book sales, no real increase in blog or twitter traffic. All in all, I don’t think I’ll do it again. Do NOT take this as a negative on the company I used, they were awesome. I just don’t see the point of the book blog tour after doing one.
  3. Photoshop: I’m learning it! Whoot! Main reason? I want to do my own covers. I’m cheap, I want to make them for myself. Who knows if I get good enough, maybe for other people… maybe.
  4. Writing: I’m working on the next book in the Echo Worlds series, started a new book in a new series, and have had an idea of a book that sort of goes along with the Echo Worlds series. I be busy.
  5. Time of year: It’s the holidays, or at least the Holiday ‘season’ here in the States. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Add in my son’s Birthday (and mine, though I don’t really think about it much.) and personal life is busy.

So all those reasons being said, I still feel somewhat bad about slacking on the blog updates here in November. I shall attempt to do more, and be more active!

Don’t forget that Bridgebreaker is out in Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook!

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