Wednesday, January 13, 2021

How I Made My First $100,000 in Self-Publishing: A Reflection and a Road Map for Authorial Success




Let's talk about books! I mean, hey. It's not like I haven't dedicated my life to the pursuit of literary excellence or anything (I kid). And it's not like I've never talked about books before on this website (ahem, that's just silly!). Yet I was thinking about books and the book market this week and it struck me: I haven't really talked about the financial side of the publishing market in a long, long time. 

Today, I'm going to give you some insight into how the book market works (if you don't already know), how books are priced, why they are priced like they are, and what the real pros and cons of being a self-published author are. I'm going to be sharing a few of things I did in the past to reach my first big milestone of  $100,000 in royalties by choosing the self-publishing route - which I believe is ultimately the best choice for most authors today. I'll still be giving you the pros and cons, though. Let's get started! 


How Books Are Priced

A book is basically like a box of oranges. From the farmer to the grocery store, every person who is involved in the process of bringing that fruit to market takes a little piece of the profit. Books are brought to the market in much the same way. Traditionally, you begin with a writer. The writer creates a manuscript. They snag a lit agent (although not always), who sells it to a publisher (if lucky), and that agent gets a commission for the job they do in selling and representing the writer. The publisher will take a big old chunk of the pie, using that chunk to pay editors and publicists and cover designers. They'll use it to buy advertising spots and, in some cases (though not often), to fund book tours and traveling. By the time it gets right down to it, there's not a whole lot left for the author. Let's say there's a hardcover book in the store that's priced for 19.99. When all is said and done, thanks to taxation (without representation, I might add!), the book might ring up at around 23 or 24 dollars. How much does the author actually make out of that sale, you ask? Probably around 2-5 dollars. Honestly, the writer is probably getting the smallest chunk, even though they're the one who wrote the book in the first place! Yet that's how it works - remember the analogy of the box of oranges? Hopefully that makes a little more sense to you. 

So is it more lucrative to be self-published or traditionally published? 

In light of those numbers, a lot of people wonder if it's even worth it to seek traditional publication. I say, absolutely it is! If that's your dream, go for it. Remember, you're getting a little bit less money, but the publisher is marketing the book for you (if the publishing house is worth its salt, that is) and getting it distributed to book stores and libraries. It's a lot of work to do that yourself, and a lot of people just don't want to deal with that kind of stuff on their own. It makes the smaller royalty worth it. 

Does self-publishing REALLY make more money?

In my experience, unless you're Suzanne Collins or Stephenie Meyer, the answer is actually yes. For self-publishers, you're keeping more of the money off the bat, but you're also personally investing your own finances in editing, marketing, and graphic design. If you're not, you're doing it wrong! If you want to compete with the big boys, you have to create a quality product. For me, the profits I made from Cassidy Hart far exceeded anything I ever initially invested. Keep in mind that a twenty-thousand dollar advance check is considered quite a nice sum in the publishing world...but guess what: if that book doesn't sell, you may not necessarily get to keep that check. It's a holding sum, a binding agreement between the publisher and yourself, with the hope that the book will sell. With self-publishing, you don't get paid until you sell those units. Still, you've got to deal with the little issue of SELLING. For me, after my first cumulative profit of over $100,000 from Cassidy Hart's adventures, I thought, "Self-publishing is way better. I'm keeping all of my profits and sharing very little with the distributor. Plus, I have total content control over my books." In addition, a 100K profit threshold is a lot more fun than a 20K advance check that may or may not get returned. You just have to be more patient to net that money.

For me, content control is everything. I don't like being told what to do when it comes to the content of my books, because I know the story and I know my readers better than anyone. So, like I say, you have to weigh your odds. For me, attaining what I would consider reasonable success in the publishing world for so many years came because of two things. First, I hit a veritable gold mine of survivalist-fiction mania. At the time I published Cassidy's first series, there was basically nobody who was writing the stories I was writing with a FEMALE heroine. It was very unique. I had a niche, and I worked it. Second, I killed myself to maintain that niche. I was working darn near seven-days a week at times, working at night, and putting out multiple books a year. I was also managing my own brand and publicity. It was a heavy load. I don't pull those kinds of hours or pile the work on my shoulders so much anymore. I choose instead to produce a few less books and spend more time with my family. It's better that way, and now, I've already established my base of readers, so I don't have to worry about it as much as I used to. I just have to stay consistent.

Distribution? 

Distribution is the big kahuna that traditional publishers will be able to offer you that you might not be able to pull off as a self-publishing writer. Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores will buy lots of your books from your publisher because they have preexisting relationships and agreements with those companies. As a self-published writer, you'll have to represent your books on your own, like a lone wolf. There are companies such as IngramSpark who assist with those situations, but it's just a lot more work. Doable? Of course? More work? Yes. I've done it. 

Kindle Profits - What's the Scoop? 

Okay, so Kindle has a few different ways these days to deliver royalties to their authors. If your book is less than 2.99 in the Kindle store, you will be taking away 30% of that sum. Not very much, right? BUT it adds up nicely if you're moving some serious volume. If your book is 2.99 or MORE, you'll be able to net 70%. That is an absolutely huge sum, in my opinion, and it's one of the things that makes self-publishing in the digital world worth it. Again, though, it's all about volume. You have to sell enough to really make any money. 

There's another option, too. Kindle Unlimited, if you enroll in that program, will offer your books as a part of KU readers' "free downloads," which will net more downloads for you, but instead of getting paid per unit, you'll be paid by pages read. I personally do not like this option, because many people will download a book and not read it for weeks, months, or even a year. It keeps your profits in a state of suspension, and I personally don't care for it, but it can work for those who want to get traction and publicity fast. 

In a World Dominated By Digital Readers, is Traditional Publishing Dying? 

Yes and no. I think traditional publishing will always have its place, and even more so, I believe that paper printing will be making a very big comeback. The digital realm can be too easily and arbitrarily altered, taking away authors' platforms with wacky algorithms or erroneous regulations. Right now, only one or two online hubs hold the cards, and it's only a matter of time before those monopolies start cracking down. I've already seen it happen since I published Cassidy's first book in 2013. Things are changing, and while traditional publishing may never be as big as it once was, it will evolve and change tact. The question is...what kind of books will they be looking for?


The Importance of Branding

Another factor that led me to netting the kind of royalties that I always dreamed of in the writing world was my recognition of the importance of branding. I kid you not, an author's name is as recognizable as the books they write. Your name as a writer is immediately connected to your characters in the minds of your readers. When people saw my name or even my head-shot online, they instantly thought of Cassidy Hart. Why? Because I built my brand to function as such. When you hear J.K. Rowling's name, you think of Harry Potter. Sure, she's written other books, but the brand that built her will always be Harry Potter. That is her legacy. For me, Cassidy Hart is my biggest legacy. I write a lot of books, but she will always be the most popular character among my readers, I believe, and she will likely always sell a large amount of books, even if the survivalist mania ebbs and flows at times. 

At the height of Cassidy Hart Craze (as I affectionately call it!), which was the time between book five and the finale novel of the first series, I was so connected with my brand that I could hardly go to the doctor or eat out without someone saying, "Aren't you Summer Lane? Didn't you write those books about that girl in the militia? The survival books?" I'm not joking! I'm trying to get this point across: I intrinsically linked Cassidy as a fictional character to my real-life existence, and I marketed that image ceaselessly, particularly in California, where I live. That's why people were making the connection, not just in the digital world, but in the local and regional area where I puttered around. In doing so, I doubled my marketing reach to customers. I made myself and my books one and the same, like a stamp of authenticity that screamed, "This is the real thing! This is Cassidy Hart! Read me, read me!" 

How to Branch Out 

The only downside of branding is that your readers often begin to expect only one type of writing from you, and they sometimes buck against you exploring other genres or characters.It's similar to what an actor might experience when they have been stereotyped after playing a single, explosively popular role. For myself, the way I introduced my reader base to books outside of the Collapse universe was by first writing novellas that existed in the same story world. That gave us some insight into characters that existed in that familiar, comfortable setting, but also expanded the character perspective. Then, I wrote a single fiction novel, a historical thriller set in 1898 Alaska called Running with Wolves. I peppered my new fictional releases within my regular Cassidy Hart-oriented launch schedule, and that kept everything fresh and safe all at once. 

Remember, your readers will always expect you to deliver on the stories that they grew to love you for. Don't ever betray them or stop giving them what they love. Feel free to add in new fictional worlds and series here and there, but if possible, always stay true to the characters and the heart that built you. 

Willingness to Dig In and Learn 

It's important to mention this, because I cannot tell you how many people I come across who try to write/market/sell a book and know absolutely nothing about the publishing world. There are expectations. There are things to learn. I'm not saying anyone has to be a veteran expert about it, but it's worth it to learn about what successful authors do in order to become one yourself. 

The biggest thing you can do as an aspiring author is to GET ADVICE. Write your manuscript and then let people rip it apart. Harsh, I know. But true! It's the only way you're going to learn how to 1) be a better writer and 2) prepare yourself for the public arena of trolls and haters. If you can't handle constructive criticism from friends or editors, you certainly won't be able to handle it from the general public. 

There is a technical finesse to writing that is important to grasp, and you can easily pick that up by reading. I tell this to my writing students every year: READ, READ, READ. If you read voraciously, you will absorb writing skills and techniques by osmosis. It is a fact. Writing a novel is so much different than writing academic papers. Do not think that the skills that you picked up in a college English class automatically equal mad writing talent. In fact, it's usually just the opposite. You have to relearn how to write after you've been creatively stifled in the collegiate writing realm. Academic writing is often astringent, formal, and meant to be read by teachers - not an audience who wants to be entertained. Novel writing is a whole new ballgame. It can take time to switch gears.

Not only that, but by simply pushing yourself to learn more about publishing as a whole, you will be better equipped to represent your work in the world when you publish your own books. 

Quantity vs. Quality? 

Here's the myth: quantity does not have to suffer from a lack of quality. In the traditional publishing world, there can be years between book releases. In the self-publishing world, you can release your books just as fast as your readers want them. I have noticed that, in response to the rapid-fire release schedules of the independent book market, traditional pubs are putting their authors' books out faster than they used to. Competition is stiff, and even the big dogs recognize that independent publishing is a wildly diverse market with millions of potential readers. 

With my own books, like I said before, I used to release 4-5 books a year. That pace was insane. I was living and breathing my books. I dreamed about my books. I barely thought of anything else. Sometimes I forgot where Cassidy Hart ended and I, Summer Lane, actually began. We merged into one imaginary being, almost as if I was method-acting within my own story world.

I managed the release schedule just fine, and as a result, I was able to grow my reader base at an insane rate. My books did not lack quality. I worked my BUTT off to get those books written, fact-checked, edited, and marketed. They were good books, and my readers have eagerly read them all. You can absolutely create a high volume of content without sacrificing quality - you just have to be able to devote an enormous amount of time to do so. 

Networks and Connections

Another area that's important is building connections. If you want to shake and bake in the publishing world, I suggest getting to know the writers around you. When I first started off, I got involved in the book blogging world, which was hugely popular at that time. I got to know TONS of other writers and editors. It was a great springboard to forming connections with other peers in the industry. I also picked up little jobs here and there with small publishing houses if I could. For example, I was a publicist for a while for a digital-only publishing house. I did press releases for a book tour company. I was on staff at the popular New Adult fiction hub, NA Alley for a time, and I met some really wonderful ladies during that time, too. I remember when we interviewed Jennifer L. Armentrout (I also interviewed her for my own website here on Writing Belle...the interview is somewhere in my archives), and now everybody knows who she is. 

I really learned how to make connections and keep them, staying up to date with people, swapping favors back and forth, and building my circles, stretching them, growing them. It takes a lot of time to build your writing community, so don't waste any time: start today! 

Wait...Do I Need a Lit Agent for Traditional Publishing?

The short answer is probably. The long answer is yes, but some publishing houses will accept unsolicited manuscripts. You have to check each lit agency, read through their rules, and make sure that you are not sending something unsolicited if they specifically request that you don't. That's a good way to get your manuscript thrown into the recycle bin. 

You definitely can get signed with an agent, but an agent will help you to shop your manuscript around to publishers and editors who will be a good fit for you. They will have relationships in the professional publishing world that you likely do not, so it's a good place to jump start your career as a novelist. 

Last Notes

I hope these little tidbits of information have been helpful to you. I could go on and on about writing and publishing, but I covered a lot of the basics in my book, Prolific: Writing a Hit Novel. You can find it in the Kindle store - it's a digital-only guidebook to writing. 

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me via Instagram @writingbelle. I use Twitter very rarely these days, and I'm working on setting up new accounts on sites like Rumble so that I can stay up to date on the latest growing social media platforms out there. I've always been grateful for social media, as it helped me to grow my brand, so I'm always wanting to keep growing! 

Have a wonderful week, everyone, and remember: 

Writing is work. 

It's wonderful work. 

Read, write, read, write, and read, read, read. 






Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 Recap: The Good, The Bad, and the Better


2020 has been one for the books. If you had told me that the California economy would be reduced to a desolate wasteland of empty storefronts and masked-up grocery clerks by Christmas of this year, I would have thought it silly at best. And hey, I would have been wrong
. Somewhere amidst the frenetic panic surrounding COVID-19 in March, smuggled between the mobs of teeming masses descending upon pallets of Costco-stocked toilet paper, hidden among the riotous looters who have burned entire cities to the ground, lurking within the never-ending presidential election, and popping up despite the best efforts of bureaucratic tyrants was a single, radiant concept this year: hope. I have long been a disgruntled consumer of the negativity that our modern press thrives upon, amazed at the preposterous damage that it wreaks on society. Every hour of every day, news channels and social media feeds are bursting with data and reports that are drunk on chaos, fear, and inflammatory rhetoric. Under a thinly-veiled attempt at civility, our media system stokes division, hatred, bitterness, greed, sexism, perversion, and the promotion of outright criminality. If 2020 was a lesson in anything for me, it's that there is great relief in turning off the television and turning off the computer. 

And still, hope remained. 

Kicked off campus, ordered to shelter-in-place for 15 days (what a joke! 15 days was just a small taste of the insanity to come!), I began asking myself one simple question: what really mattered in life? If the world were to end tomorrow, would I be ready for it? My mind whirled and twisted with such thoughts, consumed with the anxiety of the COVID crisis, and things only got worse over the summer as ANTIFA thugs and BLM "activists" destroyed businesses and homes around the country, pillaging, looting, and inflicting their unrestrained lawless anarchy on innocent civilians. I have often thought throughout the course of 2020 that the direction of the United States is far too close to my own Collapse Series, an odious parallel that I never wanted to witness. And yet, here we are. 

Still, hope remained. 

Personally, I stopped watching the news sometime in 2012, fed up with the constant regurgitation of discouraging stories, but now, I've sworn it off altogether. I prefer to get my news from independent journalists and bloggers who are capable of covering relevant topics without obvious disdain or bias. You know - what journalism used to be. Regardless of whether or not the death of modern journalism is a political topic for you, I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a jackhammer of negative news. 

For me, buried in the worst COVID regulations in the country aside from places like New York, California has been a battleground for our basic constitutional rights, with small businesses constantly being steamrolled by corporate giants like Walmart - corporations who pocket millions while mom-and-pop restaurants are closing their doors because of unfair double-standards in terms of operational guidelines. California has suffered through a slew of insane yo-yo regulations, opening and closing shops and salons on a chaotic, unsubstantiated schedule that has clearly done no good to our suffering citizens (California has some of the worst numbers for COVID cases in the country - shutting down clearly has only made it worse). 

And still, hope remained. 

Despite the shutdowns and the economical ruin and the atmosphere of anxiety created all around us in California, I have used this time of chaos to realign my values and mindset. I've previously spoken about my experience with feminist mysticism, and how I tore down those weak walls over the past year or so to fully grasp how diluted my understanding of God's Word had become, thanks to theology that had been corrupted by the gospel of radical feminism (and communism). I used 2020 to educate myself on the definition of truth, to face the reality that I didn't want to face until now (that God is God, and I am not!), and to dig into the Bible, focusing on absorbing as much theological knowledge as possible so that I will never be fooled by pretty lies again. Without 2020, I don't know if I ever would have had the time or will to dive into the Bible again at the level that I currently am (perhaps I would have later, but how many more years might have gone by?).  This is not to say that I wasn't already grounded in many ways - I've always been a self-proclaimed "anti-federalist" (someone who is against strong centralized government), and had very clear ideas about right versus wrong. Yet until the last couple of years (and even more so in 2020 - it has compounded exponentially), I don't know that I actually understood how much the gospel of communism (which is the underlying energy of the modern feminist movement) had crept into my spiritual life. Corrosive, indeed. I could (and will) write an entire book about this corruption of theology that has seeped into our churches and personal lives, but that's another story for another day.

Hope remains for all of us who are prepared to bid farewell to 2020. On Netflix, there is a new film that has been released called Death to 2020. I haven't watched it, but I ask this simple question: why must we hate 2020? If you are going to be angry at anyone, be angry at the petty tyrants who have inflicted catastrophic mandates on small businesses and driven hard-working Americans into the ground. If you are going to be angry with anything, be angry at the injustice and the confusion regarding the entire COVID crisis - the constant flip-flop of information, the dubious data, and the Chinese Communist Party who created this virus in a lab and released it into the world. Be mad at our enemies, and channel that anger in a positive way. Don't hate 2020. Be grateful for it. 2020 has brought to light so many things that have been previously hidden. Total and complete corruption from the state level in so many different places has been laid naked for the nation to see, and what's more, people like me (and hopefully you, too) have stopped to say, "Life must be more than just going through the motions. We can't simply be functional bags of bones, arisen from primordial goo, having haphazardly evolved from tadpoles to human beings! There must be more - I can feel it in my bones!" 

Hope. The hope of Jesus Christ, the hope of His death on the cross, and His sacrifice, which purchased a pardon for mankind's sin. All you have to do is accept His gift, recognize His glory, and confess that He is the Christ, the Lord. That's all.  A stunningly simple concept amidst a world fraught with so much confusion and deceit. Just remember what the Bible says in Romans 12:2: 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Accepting Christ's gift of salvation is wonderful and simple. Living out His will is a little harder. But it can and must be done! That's my hope for myself, and for you, dear reader, as we step into 2021. Don't be afraid to hope for a better year. In fact, after the lessons of 2020, we should all be moving forward with knowledge rather than fear, and truth over confusion. 

I'm looking forward to 2021, no matter what happens. I am working on lots of book projects, I'm hammering away at school, and I've got tons of developments happening here at the homestead - from managing my first big vegetable garden, to chasing my (almost) 2 year-old, to selecting our first chickens, and landscaping our giant front and back yard. The wheel of the world continues to turn, for better or for worse, and I, like so many of you, am hanging on to the better parts as I welcome 2021. 

***

Release Calendar Updates: 

Expedition 99 - March/April 2021

Resurrection: Vengeful Dawn - July 2021

The Luciferian Conspiracy - 2021 (unspecified)

Colony 99 - Fall 2021 






 



Friday, December 18, 2020

A Christmas Surprise: Washington, Critical Thinking, and My Next Non-Fiction Project

 


If you've read or are currently reading my novels, you no doubt have picked up on the fact that I love a story with some action. And by some, I mean **A WHOLE LOT** and maybe even a little extra. I'm always down for an adventure story, and it may surprise many of my readers to know that the majority of the Collapse Series itself (the first 10 books in Cassidy's story), was heavily inspired by the actual historical battles and events of the Revolutionary War. In fact, a great deal of the tactics used by Cassidy's militia group, the Freedom Fighters, were literally the exact same strategies used by the rough and ready patriots of yesteryear (you may remember the 'circle of fire' from State of Chaos, for example). I absolutely had a blast drawing parallels between the Revolution of 1776 and the modern battle that Cassidy and crew engaged in throughout the Collapse Series stories. Even now, while I am working on Cassidy's final installment, I am drawing heavy inspiration from that time period, which has always been a personal favorite of mine. 

Going into Christmas this year, I can't help but think of some interesting, real-life parallels between the 18th century and today. For example, did you know that while leading the Revolutionary Army during the earliest years of the war, George Washington had to deal with a pandemic of smallpox that raged through the ranks of his men? The outbreaks were deadly, and the epidemic itself lasted from 1775 to 1782 (MtVernon.Org). Did you know that Washington even had his troops inoculated against it - at that time, the idea was relatively new, so his response to the threat of the disease was very modern for his era. Washington himself was immune to the disease, as he had suffered from a bout of smallpox in his youth that left his face permanently scarred. 

I think we can all identify with the kind of apprehension that Washington and his men must have faced when it came to the threat of such a sickness (albeit smallpox, statistically speaking, would have posed a much deadlier threat than COVID-19 ever thought about being today in the USA, due to a variety of reasons). I find it fascinating, however, that even in the face of a pandemic, Washington and his men found a way to keep fighting, dealing with the threat at hand with common sense, and moving forward. 

Perhaps the most interesting Christmas story in American history is the tale of Washington crossing the Delaware River, which occurred on Christmas Day (25-26). Basically, the Continental Army was staked out in the middle of a frozen forest, threadbare, morale shaken (you've heard the stories, no doubt, of soldiers who had worn down their boots so badly that their feet froze, and you could follow the footprints of blood through the snow), and just about hopeless. Across the river, which was blocked with ice and snow, lay the Hessian garrison that contained about 1400 troops. Keep in mind that Washington's army was just one contingent of multiple forces moving against the British, as there were many other Revolutionary troops snaking their way through the frozen wilderness. Washington's original plan was to take a force of 3 different regiments across the river, but as we know, only one made it across (check out Mt. Vernon.Org for more information and details about this). 


Even  more interesting, the fortress of enemy soldiers across the river were aware that Washington and his troops were prepared to move against them (due to a spy that had betrayed Washington), yet they laughed it off, assuming that nobody would 1) be crazy enough to cross the ice-crusted Delaware River in the dead of winter and 2) that Washington's men didn't have a prayer in beating the 1400 troops at the fort. 

Consider this, as well: as Washington and his men were crossing the frozen river, a desolating, freezing storm blew in, carrying with it absolutely miserable sheets of sleet and ice, blinding the troops and plunging the entire force into mortal danger. And yet, they pushed on (although Washington had his doubts). What is so fascinating is that this storm, which was deadly in every way, actually allowed Washington and his men to surprise the Hessian troops - hidden in the blur of the storming chaos, they were essentially invisible. When Washington's forces successfully touched down on the other side of the river, the fortress was effectively taken. Most of the enemy troops were captured, and news of Washington's Christmas surprise victory spread far and wide, significantly boosting morale (and enlistment). It is also important to note that the blinding storm struck at such a moment as to hide the American forces from the enemy. Throughout the Revolutionary War, there were many instances of natural phenomenon that shielded the Continental Army from enemy capture or destruction. Coincidence, you say? Or Divine Providence? In the book, The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic, by historian Michael Medved, he writes this: "Since the days of the Pilgrims, leaders of the new society that arose in the New World have embraced the core concept of a divinely determined destiny. For nearly four hundred years, Americans nourished the notion that God maintained an intimate, protective connection to their singular nation. Only recently, with the emphasis on guilt over gratitude in our teaching of history, has the public grown uncomfortable with the idea that fate favors American endeavors. Today, the merest suggestion that the Almighty plays favorites among the nations of the world strikes contemporary sensibilities as offensive, outrageous, or at least controversial." 

Since when, I ask, does it become offensive to attribute a blessing to the hand of God? Since when does it become controversial to acknowledge that every good and perfect thing is from above? I digress. George Washington himself said this when considering the intervention of Divine Providence in making decisions or moving forward as a country: "As the All-Wise Disposer of events has hitherto watched over my steps, I trust, that, in the important one I may soon be called upon to take, he will mark the course so plainly, that I cannot mistake the way." If you are interested in learning about how the strong values of the church influenced the life and decisions of George Washington, I strongly recommend reading George Washington's Sacred Fire, by Peter Lillback. It is an interesting and enlightening book, filled with incredible information and facts that will astonish you. It was one of the first books that got me hooked on studying American history on a deeper level. 

Comprehending and learning about the personal lives of the men and women who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to further the cause of liberty helped me to understand the impact and importance of America in terms of historical significance. You cannot debate history until you actually are educated about history. One must do their own research and reading, since we live in an age of Orwellian dictation, in which history is rewritten daily from the iPhones of millennial dramatists who have received their education from the bowels of social-media campaigns that rely on nothing more than emotional appeal - when in actuality, all anyone needs is truth and historical fact. One can hardly turn to information doled out from megalithic corporations like Facebook or Instagram and expect that information to be accurate or even remotely valid. The ability to think critically and use those critical thinking skills to research facts and historical records to reach an informed conclusion is something that seems to be going by the wayside. 

And, of course, this leads me to the entire point of this article, which is firstly, a reflection on an inspiring Christmas story from the Revolutionary War. Secondly, this examination of critical thinking, the ability to identify truth, patterns, correlation and causation, is the subject of my upcoming non-fiction book, which will hopefully be released in 2021. I will be discussing theological information in the context of how it ties into American history specifically - and how all of this, a struggle for truth, a battle for fact over fiction, the contrast of foundation over feelings, is the great war of our time. It will be a compilation of a great conviction that has been rising in my heart for many years, an answer to the perplexing questions of my generation, a generation that wonders the following:

What is man's purpose? 

Why are we here? 

Why do bad things happen? 

What makes America exceptional?

Why is the doctrine of Marx and Lenin controversial? 

Why is it important for the church to be involved in politics?

Who controls the events of the world? 

What is the definition of justice and truth?

Where does morality come from? 

How has the world been shaped by nefarious forces for the past millennia?

What can we do to open our eyes and think freely? 

Why is it important to face facts over feelings? 


I will be covering at least 25 different topics in the book, ranging from the origins of sin to the globalist agenda that has been threatening the world for centuries. I will discuss history, both in the Biblical and the secular context. It will be a discussion of morality, an examination of world history, and the resounding hope of Christ's Second Coming. 

I will soon be releasing the title and official synopsis, but for now, this is my project that I will be continuing to hammer away at while I am straightening out the nuts and bolts of both of my fiction projects (Expedition 99 and Cassidy's finale novel). This book will be available as a trade paperback, and I plan to distribute it to libraries, churches, and bookstores (with a focus on California). 

I have always written fun adventure novels for all ages, and this is definitely a little different - and that's okay! Non-fiction may not be your thing, and it doesn't have to be. But, if you have questions about the tribulations of this world, and you think that there might be some interesting information in this book, I cannot wait to share it with you come 2021! Meanwhile, keep checking back here for updates. Have a very Merry Christmas, and a happy new year! 







Friday, December 11, 2020

Girl in the Cotton Castle: A Christmas Interview with Returning Author Jerry Green

 




Hello, friends. The Christmas season is upon us, and although Christmas looks different to us outwardly than it has looked before (thanks to Covid restrictions), the reason for the season is as unchanging as ever: everlasting joy in the celebration of Jesus' birth here on Earth. I am absolutely thrilled to be featuring an author whom we got to know a couple of years ago here on Writing Belle: Jerry Green. You will most likely recall the feature we did, which included his experiences while working as the Entertainment Director at Universal Studios (check out the 2018 story here). 

Now, Jerry has released a new book called Girl in the Cotton Castle, which is the perfect read for the holiday season. If you're like me, there's nothing like getting toasty under a warm blanket with a cup of coffee (or your beverage of choice), and reading a nice story for Christmas. To grab Jerry's book, check it out in the Amazon Store

I have a real respect for this author, as he brings a fresh, realistic view about engaging in creative endeavors, particularly from the viewpoint of a Christian - which is something that not a lot of people talk about! From working at Universal Studios, to meeting President Ronald Reagan, and finally all the way to authoring novels, he is definitely an author to watch. Jerry graciously took the time to participate in an interview with us here at Writing Belle, and it was so much fun to learn about his new book and books to come. I hope you enjoy, and be sure to check out the links at the bottom so you can follow Jerry on social media and beyond! 


Interview with Jerry Green




Welcome to Writing Belle! Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you came to be a writer!

      I came from a small town in North Florida, we were extremely poor, but I often scraped up enough money to go to the movie each Saturday. I always dreamed of being an actor, but never thought it might happen.  However, when I was a teenager my mom and her new husband moved West, and since I was underage, I came with them.

      I started my career at Universal Studios as a tour guide, hoping to use that as a springboard to an acting career.  However, I quickly discovered the roles I was auditioning for were parts I couldn’t do as a Christian … vulgar language, nudity, etc.

      In the midst of my career at Universal, a friend and I decided to write a script for a TV series called Emergency!  Although it wasn’t picked up and used in the show, it sparked my interest enough to try my hand at writing another script on my own.  The first one was titled My Little Brother Petie, and the second one, A Minor Inconvenience, which came oh so close to being turned into a movie.  How that came to be is a story in itself.     

      After finishing a script called Stealing Dawn, it sat on the shelf for years and years until about five or six years ago I became curious … could I turn that script into a novel?  I wanted to write stories my kids could read or watch on TV that weren’t filled with gross language or sex, stories I call ‘reader-friendly.’  

 

You have quite a diverse background, from working at Universal to being a playwright. Do you have a favorite job or area of expertise?

      I still feel like a novice when it comes to writing but, if I have an area of expertise, I suppose it might be hosting or MC’ing live stage shows.  Like I said, over 32,000 at Universal, and another 3,000 or so in other venues.  In addition to hosting shows, I also wrote, produced, and directed many of the stage shows at the studio, plus I trained scores of people as ‘show hosts’ for Universal, both in Hollywood and Florida.

 

Tell us about your newest book, 'Girl in the Cotton Castle.'

      Cotton Castle is the story of our heroine, Jenny, a young lady raised in the small town of Cove Creek.  She and her mom were abandoned by the husband/father when Jenny was just an infant.  Then when Jenny was twenty years old, her mom died.  Since that time Jenny’s life has evolved into a normal, yet predictable, existence.  That is until three weeks before Christmas when a newspaper reporter, Mark, comes to town on a mission.  He’s been sent by his editor to write a story about the family who once owned the house Jenny now lives in.  Mark dubs her house ‘The Cotton Castle’ because Jenny thought of it as a castle while growing up poor.  The house belonged to people of wealth, and her only view into their world was an occasional glimpse through the window.  She never dreamed she would one day live in it.  And that’s another thing, the circumstances surrounding her buying the house, a house she could not afford, were mysterious to say the least.  After all, she now owns a crafts store that provides a modest income, but certainly not enough to pay the overhead, plus the mortgage on her house.  But each month a check appears in her mail box to cover the difference.

      As the story unfolds we are introduced to Adam, a man who works at the local junkyard doing odds jobs.  He’s mystifying for sure, having arrived in town only two or three years ago.  So how does he fit in with Jenny, Mark, and … the character I get the most comments about, 83 year old Noah, a man who’s been like Jenny’s guardian angel since her dad abandoned her.

      As our reporter, Mark, digs deeper into the history of the Cotton Castle, his story morphs from a one-and-done feature article for Nashville Gazette, into a series of seven articles that transform not only Jenny’s life, but brings to light secrets hidden for years, secrets that have impacted many in the small town of Cove Creek, population - 15,000.  Jenny’s life is about to change this Christmas!

 

What inspired you to write this novel?

      I wanted to write a Christmas story, the kind my wife watches faithfully each year on Hallmark and Lifetime channels.  But I didn’t want to be wholly committed to the tried-and-true plotlines Hallmark and Lifetime movies have.  At the same time I didn’t want to stray too far afield so as to offend their fan base.  There’s a fine line which I hope I didn’t blur too much.  I also wanted my story to appeal to guys as well as the ladies, you know, with a little macho stuff thrown in.  Adam, one of two male heroes in the story, has a Navy Seal background, and brings that to bear in Cove Creek.

 

What is your writing process like?

      I know some writers like to first outline their story, while others create a detailed synopsis (an oxymoron I know) before delving into their work, so my approach probably isn’t typical.  I like to have a general idea of how I want to begin my story, and how I want it to end.  Then I start writing and see where my characters take me.  It’s always a fun ride.  One scene will lead to another and, as long as I keep the end goal in mind, the experience of discovering and fleshing out my characters is always exciting.  That being said, sometimes I have to adjust the beginning and/or ending to accommodate the story as my characters come to life.  But that too is exciting.

      I usually write 5-7 hours a day, taking breaks often to refresh my mind.  However, that isn’t a schedule I adhere to religiously.  I try to keep a rigidly flexible routine.

 

What other books have you written?

      Stealing Dawn was my first book.  Someone reviewed my books and commented that it was like reading a movie – (a compliment or not?  Hmmm?).  Perhaps the reason my books read like movies is from my ‘scripting’ background.

      When I was half way into writing the sequel, a couple of my kids encouraged me to write my autobiography and chronicle my life at Universal.  I had never given it much thought, but decided to have a go at it.  So the Uni story jumped ahead of the sequel and became my second book, 25 Years Inside Universal Studios.  (In January 2021, the publisher is releasing the updated version of that book retitled, Universal Studios – The Golden Years.  The updated version is filled with new stories that were unintentionally left out of the first edition.)

      Since my first beginnings as a writer I’ve completed seven books, I know, still a long way behind your 25 or so novels.

      To date I’ve written a three part book series: Stealing Dawn, Stealing Eagle Flats, and Stealing Stone.  That has been a great adventure.  I’m planning a fourth book in the series that will immerse the two lead characters into an event the Bible refers to as The Rapture.  I’m really anxious to see how the story unfolds as Stone and his love interest unravel the trauma they will face.  I have a beginning in mind, and I’m pretty sure someone else has already written the ending.  I just have to work my two characters in at the finish line.

      Not long after I finished my autobiography a friend asked me to write his father-in-law’s biography.  It was a project two years in the making.  Of course I also interspersed a couple of other writing projects in while tackling my friend’s request to write the story of Mehrdad Pahlbod.  It’s a name unfamiliar to most people unless they were from the Middle East.  Mehrdad was married to the older sister of the Last Shah of Iran, and served as Minister of Culture and Fine Arts for over twenty years.  When the revolt took place in 1979, He and his family escaped, finding a new home in the United States. 

      Devotion: The Memoirs of Mehrdad Pahlbod, is a story of his fascinating life while serving under the Shah, where he helped shape face of his country, a land considered the Jewel of the Middle East.

      Of course Girl in the Cotton Castle, was released in November, 2020, and the next in the series (although it isn’t a sequel in the truest sense), The Treasure of Donovan’s Bay, is about 80% complete and will come next year.

      The Christian’s Journey – Even While in Show Biz will come also in 2021.

 

Can you tell us a bit about working at Universal Studios for those who may not already be familiar with your work?

      Working in the entertainment industry was something I dreamed of doing, but never envisioned it would actually happen.  But then came the opportunity at Universal Studios where, as I say in my story, for 25 years they paid me to play for a living.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  I started my career as a tour guide, then became a show announcer (the person who introduced other shows), then was given the chance to host/MC a show.  Hosting shows, or as we called it, ‘directing,’ was where I spent most of my Universal life.

      While at Universal I was even allowed to split my time one summer and perform with Joan Embrey on stage at the San Diego Zoo.

      In 1985, Universal promoted me to Director of Entertainment.  Then I spent the last few years in Planning and Development (now called Universal Creative) setting up shows at the studio in Orlando, Florida.

      A special assignment Universal afforded me was coordinating with President Reagan’s staff in the opening of his museum and library in Simi Valley, California, and then meeting with him personally.  That’s forever etched in my memory as a profound happening in my life.

 

Can you talk briefly about 'A Christian's Journey'? I saw the advertisement on your website and it intrigued me!

      A Christian’s Journey – Even While in Show Biz tells of the challenges, struggles, and temptations while living the Christian life in the world of show business.  Moreover, it speaks of how to walk the Christian life, not only in show biz but life, regardless of what profession a person finds themselves.  It addresses what’s really important in a world that has lost its way?  How do we deal with the challenges?  It’s intended to help lead someone who’s searching for meaning to the only true and honest answer, and it’s done with a bent toward show biz.

 

For those who are pursuing any type of creative endeavor, what advice would you have for them?

That’s an easy question to answer – never give up!  However, I will say, as was true of my life, be open to what might come your way.  What I started pursuing morphed into something I never expected.  I started out with the dream of being the next Paul Newman, James Garner, or in today’s market, Tom Cruise or Hugh Jackman.

But my show biz goals were altered (by God) into a different path, still in show biz, but fit me to a ‘T.’  As I said earlier, be committed to remaining ‘rigidly flexible.’  There was only one thing that we should not compromise on - our values, our integrity.  Let’s face it, we can have just about everything taken from us now days, but integrity is something we ‘choose’ to give up.

 If you want to write, then sit down at the keyboard and write.  You’ll find there are very few rules that have to be followed.  If you want to act, or be in the music business, go for it.  Just remember, hold fast to your integrity.  What you compromise on today will make it easier to negotiate away tomorrow.

 

Where can readers find you online?

      My web address is: jerrylanegreen.com

      Plus - Facebook, Instagram, MeWe, Twitter, Parler, Linkedin

 

Thank you so much for your time, and have a very Merry Christmas! Visit again soon! 

 Thanks again Summer.  Have a wonderful Christmas filled with all the blessings that come to those who follow the Lord.






Friday, November 20, 2020

SCI-FI SUSPENSE NOVEL COMING SPRING 2021: EXPEDITION 99 (COVER REVEAL + BOOK INFORMATION)

 

COMING SPRING 2021:

EXPEDITION 

99 

 

Only the best cadets become Legion Pilots…

And as far as pilots go, Erin Colt is one of the best in the world.

The year is 2100.

The place is Earth.

The mission?

Be the best, and stay alive.

Plucked from the squalor of the Orphan Quadrant at the age of 7, Erin Colt is a skilled fighter pilot for the post-apocalyptic territory of the United States, and one of a crew of twelve carefully selected individuals from around the world who have been designated with the task of manning the International Space Station, an attempt at international cooperation as a global war rages on the surface of the planet below.

Yet diplomacy is not as easy as it seems. After a century of war, differences can be difficult to overcome.

As the ISS orbits Earth, Erin and her crew watch in horror as the world disintegrates beneath their feet, ravaging their home countries. Stranded in orbit, with no way to return home to a destroyed planet, it becomes their mission to not only survive, but to find a way to return to Earth.

With limited supplies and no surviving nations to communicate with, Erin and the crew must work quickly against the unforgiving void of space and their own fierce differences to survive.

They may very well be the last humans from Earth.

They may even be humanity’s last hope.

Packed with action, romance, and suspense, this gritty and pulse-pounding thriller from #1 bestselling author Summer Lane will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. 

* * *

HERE IT IS! At last! The idea for this novel sprang from a conversation I had with my husband a couple of years ago now while we were driving back from a camping trip. I have been working on it ever since, and it's been quite a monumental project! This novel is part military thriller, part dystopian mystery, part post-apocalyptic survival, and part heavy romantic suspense. I love writing adventure stories, and I can't resist romance, so I have combined every element that I wanted for this book and included it. The novel will be told in 3 main parts, beginning with Erin Colt's cadet training and culminating in the intense, gritty mission to the ISS with her crew. I wanted readers to really go on an exciting, all-encompassing adventure with Erin in this futuristic world, and I believe the end product will delight everyone (I hope! Lol!). 

The book will be available in the Spring, but I don't have an EXACT date yet. I am transferring to a B.S. program in December and the next 2 years are going to be CRAZY busy, but I will do everything I can to get this book out in a timely matter. I am not sure yet about pre-orders, but I will keep you updated here and on my social media platforms/my newsletter. 

I hope you are as excited as I am about this novel. It's going to be a rock and roll thrill ride! 

 THANK YOU for supporting me, as always, and I can't wait until this spring! 

 Here's a peek at the full wrap. The paperback will be a special, fully-formatted edition available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I will also be allowing orders for special, autographed copies, too!


  Have a great rest of your week!