Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Tag: Jeffrey Miller Writes (page 3 of 38)

Hot Enough For You?

Heat WavesThe dog days of summer are upon us and it’s been one sweltering, humid day after another with no relief in sight. It’s without question one of the hottest and most humid summers I have experienced in all my years in Korea.

There have been some hot summers here in Korea that come close to this summer. The summer of 1994 was a wicked hot one. Back then I was teaching at Yonsei University’s Foreign Language Institute and had an early morning conversation class that started at 7:00. By the time I walked to school from Yonhui-dong, which was about a 15-minute walk, I was already drenched. The school didn’t turn on the air until 8:00 so that first hour was a brutal one.

Not many folks had air conditioning in their homes back then, either. I was living in this boarding house, just down the street from former South Korean president Roh Tae-woo, and I had one window in my room which looked out on another house. I spent two years in that boarding house; some rough times indeed during the summer months.

I read that other day that this heat wave is expected to last until the middle of August.

The daytime temperatures hover around 90-92 degrees with 100% humidity. It’s been that way for almost two weeks now. It’s done wonders for my morning workouts. I’ve been working out every morning from 6:00-7:30. I start out with an hour on the treadmill. Thanks to the heat and humidity, I’ve been able to sweat off a couple pounds.

A Boxful of Books

BooksOne of my fondest memories of elementary school was the day the books from the Scholastic Book Services arrived in my classroom. Back in the 1960s/70s when I was in elementary school, there would be a Scholastic Book Services book fair at school or our teachers would hand out a two-four page flyer-like catalog with books that we could order such as The Trolley Car Family, Homer Price, and 100 Pounds of Popcorn. We would take the flyer home, which also included an order form that we would fill out and then bring it back to school with our money. After our teacher collected the money, she would send it off to the Scholastic.

And then we would wait.

And wait.

And wait.

One week would pass; then another week.

Every day we would come to school we would look toward the front of the class to see if the “box of books” had arrived.

Another week passed.

And then one day it was there! Yes, right there on the teacher’s desk! It was like Christmas, the Fourth of July, and our birthdays all wrapped up into one and inside the box. We couldn’t wait for our teacher to arrive and distribute the books. One by the one, our teacher would call our names, and we would march to the front of the class, grinning from ear to ear as our teacher handed us our books. And then we would be back at our desks ooh-ing and aah-ing as we thumbed through our new books.

That’s kind of how I felt today when I received a box of my books. It’s one thing to see your book posted on Amazon or someone’s Facebook page; it’s entirely something else when you see your books that you ordered inside the box. This was the first time that I had a multiple title book order, so there was a lot of ooh-ing and aah-ing when I saw all these titles together in one box.

I’ve come a long way since Washington Grade School in Oglesby, Illinois but one thing remains the same: the thrill I get when I look inside a box and see “my” books.

For Crying Out Loud!

For those of you facryingmiliar with Amazon’s new payout scheme for Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP), authors get paid for the number of pages read versus books sold. It theory it sounded like a good idea for authors who would write very thin books and then get paid the same rate as an author who wrote a much larger work. In the past, an author could expect around 1.14-1.35 for each borrowed through KDP Select.

Yes, in theory, it sounded like a good idea, but, to excuse the pun, it’s not paying off in the long run.

When Amazon started this last year, I was paid .0056 per page read. Then it was .0049 per page. Last month, it was down to .0046 per page.

The bottom line is that an indie author cannot make it out in the cruel, cold world of indie publishing without a friend like Amazon. Even though my books could be bought at other online sources, most people feel very comfortable and secure with buying only from Amazon. When I had my books at Smashwords, hardly anyone bought them. However, my top selling books continue to do quite well at Amazon with or without promotion. Also, reviews left on Amazon do drive sales.

I look at any sale, whether a book is purchased or borrowed, as a way of getting more exposure. On average, readers read approximately 900 pages a day, which comes out to about three books a day. That might not seem very much, but for an indie author, it’s a fantastic day. I will continue to stand by Amazon because there is no alternative. However, one has to wonder if Amazon’s KENP is really worth it.

Yes, You can Judge a Book by its Cover

WR_newcoverYou know the old adage, “you can judge a book by its cover?”

It’s true.

It’s especially true if you are an indie author and you’re trying to fight for a piece of the action in a market that is getting smaller and smaller. If you want your book to get noticed you are going to need a design that speaks volumes (excuse the pun) that’s about the size of a pack of cigarettes (and sometimes smaller).

Book cover design. Can’t say enough about it. There are plenty of freelance designers who can take your ideas and come up with a good design. Sadly, there are some not so good designers who might even use the design for your book for another project. This has happened to two of my writing friends. I hear 99 Designs is a good place to get started. Their rates are compatible and you can choose from several designs.detail of a statue at the Korean War Veteran's Memorial in Washington, D.C.

I’m fortunate that I have my own designer, Anna Takahashi Gargani who works her visual magic time and time again.

Recently, she redid the cover design for my first book, War Remains. I think she did a pretty good job. This was the original design. For starters, it’s a lot stronger and the font and color she uses is both bold and soft. She also was able to bring out more definition from the original photograph.

It’s a sweet design for a very good book and story.

 

Mojave Green

135449798.vbIpaC5NOf all my short fiction, one of my stories that is near and dear to me is “Mojave Green” which I originally wrote in 1988 for my MA Thesis at Western Illinois University. The story, which takes place in the small town of Adelanto, California outside of George AFB, is about an airman who finds out a troubling secret about his wife and the visit of his wife’s ex who liked to hunt for Mojave Green rattlesnakes.

I cut my teeth as a writer with the story and it will be featured in a collection of short fiction I hope to publish this year. I learned a lot about the craft of writing with this story and the importance of the rewrite.

Mitch moved past me, kicking up some sand as he moved toward his truck.  From the back, he pulled out a cooler.  “Didn’t want Betsy to know I had this.  She used to get really bent out of shape with my drinking.  I don’t think I could have gone another minute without a cold one. Beer?”

“Listen, Mitch, if it’s about—”

“You know why I’m here.”  He pulled out a dripping bottle of Budweiser, opened it on the lip of the truck’s rust-flecked bumper and hoisted it to his lips.  Beer streamed out the corner of his mouth that he wiped away with the back of his hand.  “It’s a hot one today.  I don’t know how you two can still live in this place.  I figured you for base housing, being an E-5 and all.  Betsy probably told you that I was redlined for promotion a couple of times because of my drinking.  No promotion.  No base housing.  That sucked.”

Oh, yeah the photo. That’s the barracks I lived when I was stationed at George from 1978-1980.

 

Self-Promotion: Does it Work?

Buy my bookLet’s face it, if you’re an indie author you’ve got a long, upward battle ahead of you each time you come out with a new book. That battle is the marketing and promotional battle to publicize and promote your book.

Please buy my book or I’ll end up in a van down by the river.

If you’ve been around Facebook for a while and are a writer or have a friend who is, you might have seen this posted. It’s funny. It’s cute. And as much as I admire the comic genius of the late Chris Farley, it’s a painful reminder of what all of us authors are up against when we publish. We want people to buy our books. We want people to leave reviews. We want people to tell their friends, family members, hairdressers, mechanics, clients, patients, and clergy about this amazing and wonderful book by ________________.

So, how do we self-promote effectively?

Please shut-up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn’t work.

I came across this article today and I have to admit the author makes some valid points about how some social media platforms don’t live up to the promotional expectations we might have as authors. A lot of authors bemoan the limitations of Facebook and Twitter, but that’s what you get for a free platform. I use Facebook a lot to talk about my books, but also to talk about other authors and books the same way that I would strike up a conversation with a friend and talk about a book that I am reading or have read. People will “like” it that you have a new book out or published another short story, but that doesn’t mean that person is going to buy your book or read your story, the same way that telling that person face-to-face about them. For myself, that “like” is sometimes simply a “nod” and a, “Oh, that’s nice response.”

Still, we all hope that it will work. We hope that someone will buy our books and like them so much that they will spread the word. It happens. Maybe not as much as we would like, but it still happens.

It’s tough these days promoting our books. But we still march on.

By the way, have your checked out my latest, The Panama Affair?

Just kidding. No, really. I don’t want to end up in a van down by the river.

On the Passing of Glenn Frey and David Bowie

Glenn_Frey

The other day I saw this Twitter comment someone had left about the death of David Bowie that resonated strongly with me. The person said that the reason we feel sad over the death of someone we never met is that the person touched and influenced our lives through his of her art. No matter if it’s David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Alan Rickman, Lemmy, or Stevie Wright (lead singer of The Easybeats) we all feel this sense of loss in our own lives. It’s more pronounced in this age of social networking when as soon as it’s reported that an artist, musician, artist, or writer has passed away, we’re all updating our statuses, changing our profile photos, or sharing personal anecdotes of that person. In life and in death we are all brought together by these individuals who touched our lives.

One can only imagine what it might have been like if there was Facebook or Twitter when Elvis, John Lennon, or Kurt Cobain died. We are living in an age when we can express our grief more publicly than ever before. And it is through this grief that brings us closer.

At the same time, what exactly are we mourning? Are we mourning the loss of this person or are we mourning our own inevitable mortality? Although we might be, to paraphrase Allen Ginsberg, losing the best minds of a generation, we are in the case musicians like Bowie or Frey, also losing a part of our youth. We can all remember the first time we listened to these musicians and the soundtracks they provided for our lives. That’s why it hurts so much. I can still remember the day I slapped Ziggy Stardust on my turntable and played it over and over. I’m still playing it today: “Starman” is in constant rotation on my iPod.

Some are harder to take than others. I felt that way about David Bowie. Watching his final, haunting video, put the zap in me. Thinking about it now still sends a shiver down my spine.

However, we will always have their music, their movies, and their books. One of my friends, David Steele said it best upon the news of Glenn Frey’s death: “Their music is their artistic immortality, the gift to the rest of us. As long as it is played somewhere, part of the artist lives.” I like that.

If you’re feeling a bit down because the world has lost yet another music legend, listen to their music again and share in the joy, not in the loss that it brings. Just be sure to turn it up.

 

Photo Credit

“Glenn Frey” by Steve Alexander – originally posted to Flickr as Glenn Frey. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Glenn_Frey.jpg#/media/File:Glenn_Frey.jpg

Word Count

FullSizeRenderHow many words do you write every day?

Some of my author friends are quite prolific when it comes to the number of words they write each day. Some stick to a daily quota and meet that quota no matter what. Others choose a more manageable and polished quota.

I’m quite happy if I can write 300-500 polished words a day. That might not seem very much, but it’s definitely been more manageable for me. Anyone with little kids running around the house knows exactly what I mean.

Reviews Do Matter

 I am adetail of a statue at the Korean War Veteran's Memorial in Washington, D.C.lways grateful when someone takes out the time to leave a review for one of my books at Amazon or Goodreads. When you’re an indie writer you need all the help you can get promoting your book and there’s no better way than by word-of-mouth when someone writes an honest review.

Recently, this is what one reader had to say about my novel War Remains:

“This is a story told through letters found 50 years later about the Korean War. So well written you are taken along with those in war and become scared, yet know it was much worse than you could imagine. Ronnie and his son Michael found long forgotten artifacts in a footlocker belonging to Ronnie’s father who went to Korea and fought for South Korea’s freedom. A police state action, not labeled a war, but Bobby never came home and was listed as MIA. This is a story about the journey to learn about Bobby and those who served with him. Makes you grasp for an emotion you may not realize you have inside. I can’t read this without crying and praying for all servicemen and their families.”

Although I don’t have any clear or hard evidence how a book review will drive sales or help me reach a wider market, I am just grateful that my book resonated with a reader and touched them.

Discovery

Around Daejeon 001I love where my writing takes me.

You never know the journey your going to take when you sit down and start writing. Even when you think you have everything outlined, once you start writing and your characters begin to come alive, they sometimes take you to places, real and imagined, that you hadn’t considered.

For my latest novel, a Cold War techno-thriller, I thought my beginning was solid until I tried to fit in a scene that just wouldn’t work no matter how many times I tried.

Then I began to look at what was happening from one of the character’s perspectives and everything changed.

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