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Phil Sanderson’s Indy Author Toolbox!

Me

Several times during my long stint as a writer, I have often been asked:  “What does it take to become a published writer?”

These days, all it takes is Microsoft Word and an internet connection.  And that is it!  This being said, it is a lot easier than it used to be.  The only way to be published before Amazon and other pioneering online booksellers paved the way for self-publishing was that of traditional publishing, which still has not changed very much ever since the start of the industrialization of book printing.

So let’s look back at the original question:  “What does it take to be come a published writer?”

To me, any writer worth their salt should not want to become a PUBLISHED writer, but more so a distinct and seasoned one.  Grant it that no writer is perfect by any sort of means, but writers should still at least attempt to do everything to strive toward that perfection.  They shouldn’t be too scared to PAY THE PRICE and EARN THE TITLE.

Anyone can put together some literary turd, put any image on it that will come to be known as the cover for said literary turd, and call it a published book, thereby claiming the status as published writer.  All that serves is to discredit the whole movement of indy authors everywhere the world over.

So my chief advice to writers everywhere who desire to be self-published authors is simple:  Bring something solid to the table, something that will make traditionally-published authors look over their snobby shoulder with even the vaguest of worries.  In doing so, here is my advice:

First, Pay the Price!

  1. Read a grammar book cover-to-cover the same way you would a novel written by your favorite author, not only READING it, but ABSORBING the knowledge like a Bounty paper towel.  If you choose not to make it through, it is clear that you do not have the true desire to be a prolific author.  Why even bother attempting it?  If you find that you become truly fascinated by the rules of the road, then this is a true sign that you may stand a wonderful chance of becoming something more than the author of a literary turd.
  2. Read many, many different books by many, many different successful authors.  I myself have started reading several classic works.  This past Christmas, I read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  And a couple of years ago, I read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving just before Halloween…and one of my most favorite classics, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one I will never forget!  These classics and many, many more paved the way for successful literature all over the world.
  3. If you desire to write fiction, read many, many different books about the craft of writing, plot development, creating memorable characters, creating conflict and tension in your stories, and all other elements that may be essential in creating a story that people will remember through the ages.

Next, Stay True to The Craft!

  1. When it comes time to sit down and begin your book, set a rigid writing schedule; and do  not let anything come between you and it.  Work diligently to complete your first draft.  When you finish, work diligently to complete your second draft paying close attention, looking out for errors in grammar and punctuation.
  2. It’s not a bad idea to obtain a subscription to Writer’s Digest if you can afford it.  You can learn so many valuable lessons and great tidbits of information from this one terrific magazine that has been around seemingly almost since Jesus Christ was a little boy.
  3. Let anyone and everyone you meet know about your project.  Be excited when you tell them about it.  It is the only way you will be able to get them excited about it.  If they see the thrill on your face, it may be contagious enough for them to want to experience it directly as soon as it is finished.
  4. Disregard the Nay-Sayers.  If anyone, at anytime , tells you:  “Why do you even bother?”  You look them in the eye and say:  “Fuck you!  I try, because I know I can.”  And you keep sitting back down at the chopping block, prepared to hammer out your best writing fueled by the words of the punch-bowl turd you just heard.
  5. Finally, through the entire writing process, do not write to become rich and famous.  I hate to tell you that this will probably never happen.  But write because you love it!  And content yourself with knowing that your writing will still be around long after you are gone.  For this one extreme reason, this is why it is so important to not have a literary turd survive you.  Do you really want your name to be associated with such a piece of shit long after you are gone?  This is where paying the price literally pays off!
  6. If you can afford it, DEFINITELY hire an editor worth their salt.  Also, if you can find an agent who is LEGITIMATE (…and you can tell those by the ones who say to you: “I don’t make money until after you make money”…) then you better jump on it!
  7. Don’t be scared by the advice I’m offering here.  Because even a turd nugget can be turned into a priceless gem after the editing process is completed.  Look at this as a challenge that you know you can overcome.
  8. Also be sure to avoid organizations out there which prey on new writers.  I fell into a trap of using AuthorHouse as my first publisher.  I’ve yet to see my very first penny of royalty from this organization.  They do, however, provide an excellent product…but they WAY overcharge for it.

And Finally!  The Tools of the Trade!

With all of this said, every writer should have some tools at his arsenal.  These are the tools I recommend:

  1. Good Laptop!  You can use a typewriter, word-processor (if they still make these dinosaurs!), or a desktop computer.  But I personally prefer laptops.  Because sometimes you can do some of your best writing in a coffee cafe!  Nothing like a ravenous stream of caffeine to wash away the old writer’s block!
  2. Laptop Bag (I use a messenger bag that holds my reference books as well!)
  3. Memory Stick or USB Drive (Keep Your Manuscript Here for Backup!)
  4. Decent Internet Connection
  5. Good Dictionary & Thesaurus (You Can Also Use http://www.dictionary.com )
  6. Good Reference Books (Some of Which are FREE!)  I’ll even include links where you can get them!
    1. Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing
    2. Building Your Book for Kindle
    3. Book Cover Secrets and Shortcuts
    4. The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need
    5. Crafting Novels & Short Stories (for those wanting to write fiction!)

These are the more important tools in my writing arsenal.  I hope you may find them to be just as vital as you carry them along on your writing journey.

In this article, I hope I’ve successfully conveyed the importance of paying the price to be a good writer and staying true to the craft, as well as also having provided you with what I feel are some very good tools to get you started.

Well to those who have asked me the question,  “What does it take to become a published writer?”, I hope this successfully answers it.  However, I DO urge you to start asking yourself:  “What does it take to become a SUCCESSFUL writer?”

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Author Q & A

Me

As a self-published author, I am asked a lot of questions by people who are curious in one way or another.  Sometimes, they ask questions due to a desire to become published writers themselves.  But here are a lot of questions that I am asked:

What exactly is my writing background?

I am a former Marine Corps photojournalist who also wrote for the Goldsboro Times newspaper for a short time.  I published my first action thriller novel, 2018: An Uncivil War, in 2013, as well as my comedic short story, The Saint Who Stole Christmas.

What inspired me and inspires me to write and continue writing?

As a teenager, Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels convinced me that writing would be in my ultimate future, though I knew not when and how.  In later life, the works of Tom Clancy and Vince Flynn reignited that passion, pushing me toward my goal of finally becoming a published novelist.

Who are my strongest writing influences?

I’ve already mentioned Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy, and Vince Flynn…these guys were my strongest influences on my action thriller passion.  As for my love of horror, Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King caught my attention and studious eye.

What are my goals as a writer?

To ultimately live my dream.  Previously, it was to leave a lasting, immortal footprint in the world of literature.  Now that I have accomplished this, my next goal is to become a local celebrity in the state of Alabama, similar in manner of Kathryn Tucker Windham; though my work is more raw than hers was ever meant to be.  My final goal will be to sell enough books that I can live without ever having to work for anyone else ever again.  If I become as successful as Tom Clancy and Stephen King, that is perfectly okay too!

How often do I read, and what do I usually read?

I read frequently, often garnering knowledge and wisdom from writers who have achieved the success that I hope to someday achieve.  Right now, I am reading Stephen King’s collection of short stories, Night Shift.  I’ve also been reading the stories of H.P. Lovecraft of whom’s work I have discovered a new fascination.

How long did it take me to write my first novel, and what all was involved?

For 2018: An Uncivil War, I conducted research into the history of the American Revolution and the American Civil War.  I also poured over numerous gun rights / gun control statistics.  Various interviews had been scheduled and were conducted…all of this in an effort to make my work as realistic and authoritative as possible.  I spent approximately 9 months in the actual writing, but probably more than a year combined with all of the activities mentioned above.

What is the plot synopsis of this novel?

The start of the 2nd American Civil War dawns after the American federal government repeals the Second Amendment (right to bear arms).

How did it sell, and how do I feel about this level of success?

Initially, I had hoped that the strong feelings on the subject of gun rights and gun control would have boosted this novel into best seller status.  But I instead sold between 100 and 150 copies in print and digital formats.  It may not have been a New York Times bestseller, by any means.  But I am surprised to have sold more than just 50 copies!  I am quite pleased with the limited success in which I was blessed.

How much money do I make from my books?

The money I make from my books is certainly nothing to brag over.  Having come from virtual obscurity into the world of book publishing, one cannot expect to make very much money.  With the cost I paid to AuthorHouse to have my book released in print, I operated at a major financial loss.  The biggest gain I have received is from my loyal following of readers.  2018 is blessed with a four-star rating on Amazon and five stars on Barnes and Noble.  So I don’t need money to give me a feeling of accomplishment, though it certainly would never hurt.

What did it take to get 2018 into print?  How do I feel about the publisher?

I had to research a publisher and ended up choosing AuthorHouse.  I had to send them my cover image and book files, and they did all the rest.  The hardest part was the investment to get my work published.  That set me back between $3- and $4-thousand.

I regret the decision to publish with them, though they did an excellent job of book presentation.  I later found out that CreateSpace, through Amazon, offers just as good a product for much less money.

I heard, after the fact, that AuthorHouse exploits new writers; and now I truly believe it.

What other books written by me are available for purchase?

After publishing 2018, I wrote a short story and published it in two different editions (Children’s and Off-Color).  And I’ve been working on my second novel, a horror story called An Interstate Ghost Story: The Girl on the Highway.  Finally, I most recently released a table-top role-playing game called The Sea Dogs where you can create pirate characters and run them through adventurous sea tales.  All of this is available on Amazon.  However, 2018 is available on Barnes & Noble and the AuthorHouse website as well.

What works can readers expect from me in the near future?

I hope to release An Interstate Ghost Story within the next year or so.  However, I am taking my time with this one; attempting to make sure there is no doubt whatsoever that I will have released the best possible product of literature.  And I am also in consideration of releasing a non-fiction book.  But this I must keep under tight wraps for now.

More specifically, what can I divulge about my next work, the horror story?

When more than 30 people die in a massive, horrible accident near Montgomery, Alabama on Interstate 65, the state troopers contact a disgraced celebrity paranormal investigator named Cliff Rodger to investigate this and numerous other previous accidents.  Rumors abound that a ghost known as the Girl on the Highway may be causing most of the accidents between Montgomery and Greenville in the state of Alabama.

Am I planning to write a sequel to my first novel?

My wife is thoroughly pissed off about this, but I refuse to release a sequel until the first novel becomes successful enough to warrant it.  It isn’t because I’m being a spoiled brat throwing a childish tantrum; it’s because I will need to take a trip overseas in order to obtain the realism that I demand in my novels.

Is it true that I am having some physical problems that affect my ability to write?

I have degenerative disc disease in my cervical spine which includes spurring.  These spurs pinch and threaten to sever nerves which allow me strength and coordination in my left hand and arm.  So I now type clumsily with my left hand.  I have recently had an MRI and suspect that it is time for another spine fusion (I’ve already had one titanium plate surgically fused into my neck).

What is my biggest dream as a writer?

My biggest dream as a writer is to be able to successfully sustain the comfort, wellness, and happiness of me and my family, while writing books that the reading public will love, cherish, and remember forever.

What advice can I give to people who wish to become writers?

Don’t!  It is a very tough job filled with tons of competition, some friendly, others not so.  But for those who simply love it like I do, please feel free to contact me at phil.sanderson.writer@gmail.com for some quick free advice.

 

 

 

 

Raw, Raving Review: 50 Shades of Grey

Fifty-Shades-of-Grey-Official-Movie-Trailer

I read 50 Shades of Grey several months ago.  And I did not read it, because I’m a pervert (though I do not disclaim being a pervert — LOL!).  I actually read it, because everywhere I looked and listened, I could not seem to get away from that very intrusive title…that title that seemed to somehow find its way into conversations and discussions.

The story was a huge hit, and no one could dispute that.  The author of this mega literary hit, E.L. James, no doubt, knocked the ball out of the park!  She achieved the very same literary success that I am currently trying to achieve.  So I wanted to know how she did it.

First, I researched the title.  I found out, strangely enough, that the original story was written as fan fiction for the movie Twilight.  And if you watch the movie and / or read the book, you can clearly see some interesting parallels between certain characters in both stories.  Okay, so the writer created an X-rated version of Twilight, and the snowball rolled downhill from there, getting bigger and bigger, until it hit the reading public, leaving all of us feeling all but cold, wet, and shivering…probably more like hot, wet, and sticky!

Next came the hard part, reading the novel without getting a boner or two.  Geez!  This was the first full-length erotic writing I ever brought myself to finish.  Sure, there was enough filth in that novel to possibly make even Paris Hilton blush.  And God forbid the person who suggested the book to anyone in their Sunday school class (if lightning didn’t come down and strike the person then and there, turning them into Sunday lunch!).

But the story, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, is very alluring.  A huge reason for this is because of James’s ability to craft such wonderful characters, whether from her own imagination or just mimicking certain characters from the Twilight story.  We have Anastasia Steele, a love-starved virgin; who meets a mega billionaire, Christian Grey, who is normally very stand-offish to most individuals he meets.  But somehow, he finds himself drawn to her and pursues her relentlessly.  He draws her into an extremely lustful existence, but she finds herself wanting more and more from him.  He seems to hint that he can give her more, so long as she is willing to give in to his wild and extreme lifestyle of kinkiness so bizarre that he has her sign a non-disclosure agreement to not reveal anything about it.

Yes, 50 Shades is a love story that has no love shared between the characters, at least not mutually anyway.

I’ve probably already revealed too much about the story already for those who have not yet read the book and may or may not have been planning to do so.  So I will go ahead and conclude this review.

My wife and I just recently went to see the movie for our 14th Anniversary.  I have to say that the movie was laughable when compared to the book.  Not because of any particular actor or director’s ability to perform their craft with the utmost precision (Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson did an amazing job of acting out the characters of Anastasia and Christian respectively!); but mainly because of the fact that there were so many deeds and misdeeds left out of the movie that had blatantly stood up between the pages of the book like an Irish hard-on in the middle of an English church sermon!  It is clear that the makers of this film wanted to maintain an R-rating.  In order to make this film exactly as it was in the book would create another type of movie altogether…a porno film!

I personally liked the film better than the book due to my Christian sensibilities (though I’m sure some of you are questioning that sensibility being that I read the book in the first place, knowing that it was extremely erotic!).  If I felt as though I needed a bath after watching the film, then I certainly would have needed to be carbonized like Han Solo after reading the book!  I strictly read the book as homework to see how the writer had managed to become so successful with it.  I learned she did it through witty characterization and through lavish use of sexual content.  After all, sex sells in today’s entertainment industry, be it movies or reading!

I’ve even decided to seriously consider using erotic scenes in An Interstate Ghost Story: The Girl on the Highway, the novel I am currently writing.  But it was written in honor of the American state trooper.  So I will only do so if it can be done in a manner that does not cheapen the honor offered them by this novel’s writing and publication.  If I DO decide to do so, it will only be in a couple or a few scenes.

But — back to finishing my review!  I give the novel 3.5 out of 5 stars, and the film 4.  Fifty Shades of Grey is more or less the love story that never was.  I’ve heard that the next two novels have possibly different outcomes.  But these are not my types of books to read as I prefer action and horror over romance and eroticism.

In a Perfect World…

tennisbutt

In a perfect world, we would all be in good health and working in perfect jobs!  I, for one, would be a bestselling author on the New York Times list and would be a poster board of perfect mental health.

My case has always been very tricky.  I am an adult living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  I have had an average of no less than one job a year, since I got my first job in 1985.  And when I have tried to get understanding about my fine mess I’m in, I’ve been told several times:  “Phil, you cannot use A.D.H.D. as a crutch.”  The truth of the matter is that if I had been using it as a crutch, I would have shoved it so far up their asses that no other crutch would ever help them to walk again!

Chief among my problems are inability to concentrate for long periods of time; I also tend to be very impulsive (in one case it got me fired!); I am extremely forgetful; I tend to misplace things (and this makes me look very irresponsible when serving as a manager!); I also tend to misread my work schedules, and one time failed to show up as scheduled; and most tragically, most of the time when a supervisor gives me instructions, I somehow end up not comprehending all of it and totally butchering the whole task.  All of this, in combination really serves to make me look like an unprofessional idiot.

Some people talk so fast that I think to myself — SLOW DOWN, I’M NOT GETTING ANY OF THIS!  Social situations are awkward for me when I see someone I’ve recently met.  Because I cannot remember their names, I am unable to make an introduction.  So I instead say to my wife or daughter:  “I’d love to introduce you to that person over there, but I cannot remember his name.”

All of these are common symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  And sure as bird-shit on a windshield wiper, I HAVE IT, DAMMIT!

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In two most recent cases, I’ve had a doctor at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Montgomery, Alabama and one of my bosses both tell me:  “Phil, you are able to write books; you do not have any real problems.”

Saying that I do not have ADHD, is like someone saying that Beethoven wasn’t really deaf, since he continued to compose music after becoming so.  It’s, without a doubt, sheer stupidity, ignorance, and severe lack of empathy for those less fortunate.  People with conditions and disabilities learn to adapt to their situation.  But they are still at a severe disadvantage even after doing so.

Sure, I wrote a book!  But even to this day, I can find sentences that I could have written better.  It took me several drafts before I finally got it write (which is not totally uncommon for most writers, since none of us are perfect).  But at one point in my plot line for 2018: An Uncivil War, I forgot a minor detail that caused me a major amount of revision that took a couple of weeks to straighten out.  Another key difference between succeeding in a normal day-by-day job and writing a book is that — as a new writer who is not making much at all off my writing — a book does not possess the ability to fire me, taking away whatever key source of income I have coming into my household.  A book is a lot more flexible.  I can reread it, and change it as necessary.  When I make a major mistake at work, it is not as easy to correct.  And bosses have a much better memory than the books I write.  So all I can do is try to do the best I can in spite of myself.

Sure!  I have many different coping mechanisms.  For example, I habitually try to keep things I use frequently in the same place at all times when I am not using them.  When I first meet a person, I try to repeat their names several times when talking to them in hopes that it will stick in my head and come to me when I see their face again in the future.  Sometimes, if something is important enough, I may put a shoe in my bathroom sink to remind me that I have to address it.  And sometimes I have to make myself finish a task before moving on to something else.

Basically, being a person with this condition is like being a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.

I can take medication to eliminate much of this static; Vyvanse works the best for me, by far.  But even then, there will still be one or two symptoms that will manage to slip in to rear their ugly heads once more.

So, if you are responsible for or to someone — maybe a worker or a family member — with any type of attention deficit disorder, please don’t accuse them of using it as a crutch.  Life already sucks enough for them because of this condition; no need to add insult to injury.  Instead, try to be more understanding and accommodating.  If you do so, I truly believe God will bless you for it in the end.

Free “Dracula Untold” Theme Pack!

 

dracula_untold_010

As I draw nearer to completion of my first horror novel, “An Interstate Ghost Story: The Girl on the Highway”, I cannot help but enjoy other horror films that serve to inspire me. Please enjoy this free theme pack I have created from photos of “Dracula Untold”!  It works on Windows 8 and 8.1!

Download it here:  http://ow.ly/CQqNG

Writer’s Everest

mount everest

Any writer worth his salt clings to the dream through thick and thin.  And very few actually make it!  From what I have observed in this unforgivable business, these are the levels of success:

  1. The Act of Writing:  The writer simply picks up a pen or sits behind a keyboard and writes a poem, story, play, or other literary work.  Most writers start here.   And many of them end here as well.  The writer, at this point in the game, is considered more of a hobbyist.
  2. Low-Level Discovery:  The writer finally becomes published or known as her work is sampled within a small community (e.g. published in school or local newspaper; play performed by community playhouse, etc.).  She may or may not have received any type of compensation for her work.  If she did, it likely wasn’t much.  The recognition from this accomplishment finally makes the writer consider her level of seriousness toward writing.
  3. Willful Determination:  The writer finally decides that she is serious about the craft and completes her first large-body work.  Maybe it was a novel or a screenplay.  But the project entailed months of work and a great sacrifice of free time.  Now the writer decides to look for ways to get the work and herself discovered.
  4. High-Level Discovery:  The writer possibly decides to look for an agent.  In rare cases, he finds one and ends up progressing immediately to the Ultimate Discovery level of success.  More likely, however, he finally becomes either published in a magazine or other small work or self-published digitally or in print.  He may have even won a writing contest.  Overall, his work becomes available in the local community or nation in which he lives.  It may even become available internationally.  The fruits from the labor are still lacking, however, requiring the writer to keep his regular job working in sales, retail, manual labor, administration, or whatever other menial job he is working.
  5. Collective Growth:  The writer continues to work hard at producing and publishing various bodies of work while spreading the word about it in all ways possible (e.g. word of mouth, book signings, print and broadcast media, online social media, etc.).  Money continues to flow in, but still does not permit the writer to quit his day job.  Meanwhile, agents may be scanning his Social Media, watching him very closely in consideration for future representation.
  6. Stuck in Literary Limbo:  Most serious writers are unfortunate enough to find themselves stuck in this almost hopeless existence at this stage in the game.  They feel as though they have done everything in their power to represent themselves and their work.  But no one seems to be biting.  Sadly enough, many writers give up at this point in the game after having stayed persistent throughout the previous stages of accomplishment.  Though I mention this lack of success here, this could also end up occurring anywhere before this level I’ve suggested (e.g. at the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th levels).
  7. Ultimate Discovery:  The writer either accidentally or intentionally becomes discovered by either an agent or one of the major traditional publishers, though the latter is extremely rare.  If discovered by an agent, the agent — if he is at all worth a damn — will agree to represent her before all the major traditional publishing houses or production companies out there while receiving pay only when she gets paid.  So the search is on for a publisher who will contract this writer to write one or more books under their name.
  8. First Success:  The writer suddenly gets her chance to be published by one of the major publishers of books (e.g. Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, etc.) or contracted by one of the major production companies (e.g. Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, etc.).  The writer finally makes enough money that she can quit her job, though she is still not out of the woods and may not be quite wise to do so.  After all, many writers have fallen from their first book or production deal when their book, show, or movie did not earn all the money back that was used to produce it.
  9. Continued Success:  The writer’s first success contributes to a return on investment and possibly even brings in quite a profit!  He continues to have success in whichever industry he has chosen to write.  His profits continue to increase, and he can definitely now more safely quit his day job after having proven himself in the field.  In many such cases, the writer’s agent may get several requests from other publishing or production companies to negotiate better deals for the writer.
  10. Ultimate Success:  The writer is now known as more than being successful; he is now known as a trademark and / or one of the Greats (e.g. Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allen Poe, Ian Fleming, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, etc.).  In some cases, the writer may become so filthy rich that he purchases a baseball or football team!

Character Reveal: Amanda

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Amanda is an assistant troop commander who has been tasked to work with a disgraced paranormal investigator in Phil Sanderson’s upcoming novel, The Girl on the Highway.  Her boss has decided to take a New Age approach toward determining the cause of so many accidents occurring in his of responsibility on Interstate 65.  She doesn’t believe in ghosts, spirits, or anything else out of the mainstream.  She takes offense if someone tries to convince her that these things do indeed exist.  Emotionally, she is an empty shell who was deeply hurt months ago by a man who claimed to be in love with her, but turned around and left her for another woman.  Her blood runs cold when men try to approach her with romantic intentions.  Professionally, her troop commander is grooming her to take over the troop as soon as he is promoted to his next career milestone.

For more on The Girl on the Highway, please visit Phil Sanderson’s Official Website.

Note:  “Portrait Of Young Woman Hiding Her Face With Hair” Image provided by  by imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.com