2012 by Josh Guess

2012 has been a strange year for me. Through the end of 2011 and most of the way through this year I was in a deep depression with only occasional moments of normality. During this year my writing income doubled from the previous year, yet in the last month I've seen what I think is a serious long-term decline in my sales. I hope I'm wrong.

I finished Monster yet after I was done I realized the book wasn't at all what I wanted it to be. It needs a lot of work to be a true sequel to Beautiful and I want to do that work and get the book out. The problem is that I wrote almost all of it during that depression, and reading over it puts me back in the mindset I worked so hard to get out of. I don't know if your own emotional problems can create PTSD, but it feels that way. Monster is shelved indefinitely as I work on other things.

I'm at a strange crossroads as a writer. I have a huge amount of material I want to crank out, good ideas that need barely any work to be fully-fleshed out as stories. I've spent long nights working at the nursing home thinking about them on my rounds. Most of them only need the one thing I've had in short supply: time.

Time is the worst part. Yeah, I have it when I get home in the morning, but that's when I'm exhausted in every way. I've written that way before, and in fact I write Living With the Dead that way almost every day. LWtD takes up most of my mental energies any given morning. More writing on top of that is counter-productive.

I started Write The Future in an effort to spend all next year just working on my writing. The campaign is over at midnight tonight and the total contributions stand at just over $1,000. That's no mean feat for a guy sitting on his couch writing about zombies, but it's only about five percent of my goal. That's okay; I honestly didn't think I'd get that far. The project looks like it'll fail in about twelve hours, all the backers will get their money back in the next few weeks.

I'll keep on working and tucking away money here and there. I'll try to save my writing income as much as possible so that someday I'll have a nest egg that will allow me to risk not working. All I need is time to write those books and a bit of luck, and I'll live my dream. Eventually I'll be writing full-time and the stress of this year will be something I can look back on as a learning experience.

Complaining seems pretty dickish at this point. I've had more success than I expected by any measure. Over this year I've reached more readers than I thought possible. I've made new friends and learned a tremendous amount about the art of writing, and it continues. Work is hard and it sucks, but that's how it is all around, right? I've got a roof over my head, the best wife and family anyone could hope for, fuzzy companions at home who are always happy to see me (yes, Jess and I keep Hobbits in the house) and the future has yet to be written.

My readers are the best. You are the best. You've been the most supportive group of people, and I know that while it may take a while, I'll get there eventually. Because of you! That's the truth. I could be sitting here writing the next great classic (I'm totally not) but it wouldn't mean a thing without you guys. I'm thrilled every time I get messages from you, or words of support, or anything really. You all keep me motivated and in total honesty interacting with you on a daily basis has helped calm the emotions that wrecked my productivity so much of this year.

Thank you for all of that. Whether you're a close family member or someone I met on the internet (and there are more of you than I can easily count now, many of you now dear friends), you mean the world to me. Even if I had to give up writing (tragic wheat thresher accident? Choose your own adventure) tomorrow I would still treasure each moment, past and future.

I'm not giving up. I will write and write until my fingers bleed, and I will achieve my dream. I don't make resolutions, but 2013 is going to be my year one way or another. I promise that.

"Next" and a review of "Cold Days" by Jim Butcher by Josh Guess

My initial plan was to begin work on Saint for NaNoWriMo this month, but a few false starts later and an obsessive infatuation with another planned book, Next, pushed me in a different direction. Next is sitting at almost eight thousand words as of this moment, and I'm planning to put it over the 10k mark tonight.

As for Monster, well, the raw first draft is sitting on my hard drive. I'll be honest: I wrote the book during more than a year of depression, personal turmoil, and continuing physical and mental stress. I want to get the book done and published, but every time I sit to edit and revise I start to remember every bad moment and I just can't do it. I may need to let Monster sit for a while as I work on other things and revisit it later. I want it to be a good book. Right now it isn't what I'd like it to be.

And now, a review of Cold Days by Jim Butcher, which I just finished reading a few hours ago.

A warning: SPOILERS. OMG SO MANY SPOILERS. Don't read past here if you haven't read the book or care at all about knowing major plot elements ahead of time. Seriously.

In fact, let me just add a jump right here.


So. Cold Days came out this morning. I read the whole book in about seven and a half hours. I read it straight through, including taking my dogs out and cooking two meals.

The fourteenth book of The Dresden Files easily stands up to the expectations I had for it. While Butcher sticks to his formula as far as plot goes--which is kind of the point of the series, really--this volume comes with a lot of excellent moments and furthers the larger, over-arcing plot of the series very nicely.

There are several long-running questions that get answers, such as what the island Demonreach and its genius loci really are and what purpose they serve. Butcher includes several elements that are actually facets of the same thing that manage to neatly pull together events going all the way back to Harry Dresden's first adventure in Storm Front. We get a larger understanding of the Faerie courts, the role of several characters, and--probably most important in the long run--some solid information regarding Rashid the Gatekeeper and what the future may hold for Harry and his being 'starborn'--which you may remember has something to do with him and Outsiders. Rashid, in his role as Gatekeeper, "guards the outer gates".

That's important, and Butcher throws it in with the same ease with which he manages so many other aspects of the series.

As a reader, I'm more than satisfied with this book. The characters get a lot of development time (well, most of them. I'm a bit iffy on Murphy during the last tenth of the book, to be frank) and if anything, Mr. Butcher has smoothed out his voice even more with this book. His ability to change up the way he writes to better fit his own innate style is truly mind-blowing. As an author myself, I can't help but goggle at the thousand small details. He manages to integrate pop-culture references much more seamlessly than ever before, include humor that is both more subtle and more powerful considering the circumstances it appears in, and generally refine his storytelling even more.

Which is saying a hell of a lot, from my point of view. Butcher has grown as a writer with every novel in this series. That's an amazing feat. Refining your art every time you publish something is a sign of real dedication and talent, and many writers (myself included) would kill to have that level of ability. If the very first book in the series is rough (or maybe only seems that way when reading it over again, compared to the later books) then Cold Days represents an astounding accomplishment: a series that has only improved with each book. That's unheard of. And it's not as though Butcher has reached an even level with his skills and decided to relax and coast. He's still on the upward slope, growing his writing skills by working at it every day. That much is obvious.

And the guy is only forty-one right now. For authors, that's a baby. I can only imagine how good he'll be in ten years, which is probably about the time this series will come to an end. If Cold Days is any indication, the rest of the series is going to keep trending better and better.

Saint: A First Look by Josh Guess

Many of you know I'm running a campaign on IndieGoGo to fund my writing for next year. That link will take you to it. The goal seems like a bit much, I know, but it really isn't. It's less than I make at my full-time job, but even if you don't use that metric it really isn't an outrageous number. I've seen people run campaigns for $15,000 for a single book. I'm reaching for 20k to complete six additional novels on top of my work on Living With the Dead. When you break it down I'm shooting for about $3,400 per book. That's about par for writing campaigns on IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, and the other crowdfunding platforms.

I should also mention here that I'm planning on adding more perks to the campaign that include print editions of each book. Signed by me! Awww, yeah!

With Monster in the edit/revision stage, I figured it would be a good time to give you some background on my next planned novel, which I'm going to write regardless of my campaign's success. It's called Saint, and it's something I haven't done before: a crime drama.

Without giving too much away, the story centers around a man called Saint O'Brien. Though his first name is Eric, few people call him that due to a personality quirk: the Saint always gives a second chance. But after that he's as ruthless and without mercy as a hurricane.

Saint is a character inspired by several of my favorite bad guys in movies and comics. He's a little Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad, a little Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction. It's safe to say that Agent Graves from 100 Bullets (one of my all-time favorite characters in comics) exists in the Saint in some form, as do the minutemen he lead in the comic.

He's a cleaner, a fixer. He's the one who gets called in to troubleshoot and solve problems when lesser criminals can't manage on their own. The Saint has little to lose and few morals to hold him back. He's a murderer with ice in his blood.

And the idea of the story was to put him in a situation where he is forced to face those remaining moral lines up close and face choices that might make him cross them. Saint is going to be faced-paced and full of thrills, but in building the central character and plot, I began to ask myself just who Eric O'Brien is and how he grew into that man. Originally this novel was going to be a straight thriller, but over the last few months O'Brien has evolved into something much more complex and interesting than a simple anti-hero.

I'm excited to finish Monster and get to work on Saint. This is a new direction for me. I usually write in the realms of science fiction and fantasy. I've got most of this book mapped out in my head, and if the campaign is successful I'll be able to get it written pretty quickly. So if you haven't contributed yet, you should think about doing so. If you haven's shared the link, here it is again. I hope you do that.

Because this guy wants his day in the sun, and I want to give it to him.

Six Books For $10 by Josh Guess

Just going to keep this short and to the point: what the post title says is correct. I'm running an IndieGoGo campaign from now until December 31st at 11:59 PM, and the lowest level of backing will net you all six of the new books I'll write in 2013 for less than the cost of two lattes from Starbucks.

I'm trying to reach $20,000. If I hit that goal, the campaign will be successful and I'll spend 2013 at home working on books and nothing else. No full-time job. If we don't reach that goal, everyone's money is automatically refunded and I don't get a dime. But, then, I won't have the freedom to write all six of those books. I'll still work on them as much as I can, but I can't guarantee I'll be able to do any of them, much less all six.

There are other perks that cost more on the campaign, which can be found right HERE, but the one I think would appeal to most people is the cheapest one. Six books--eBooks--for ten dollars. If that sounds like a great deal to you, and it should, then head over and help support my work. If you can't afford to, then please share and encourage any friends you have that might enjoy.

Thanks,
Josh

Telling Stories: Cancer, Comedy, And Going There by Josh Guess

I'm not just a writer, I'm also a comedy nerd. I love language and telling stories as things alone, but to me comedy is a perfect example of blending language and storytelling into an experience that creates a reaction. What I try to do with words on a page, comedians do with their tone of voice, body language, and a dozen other little things.

I've been trying to work all afternoon and evening and have little to show for it. A little while ago I took a break to listen to a stand-up routine I bought from my favorite comedian of all time, Louis CK. It isn't his performance. It's an audio track by a friend of his, fellow comedian Tig Notaro.

Louis posted this tweet not long after watching Tig's set:

in 27 years doing this, I've seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo.

Sixty seconds before the set, Tig told Louis that she had cancer, was probably going to die, and had lost her mother not long before. "I'm going to go up there and talk about it," she said. "It's probably going to be a mess."

I listened. It wasn't.

She took to the stage and did something really unique. By bluntly confronting the tragedy in her life, not complaining but seeking an honesty with her audience I've never heard of much less seen, Tig Notaro gave what was probably the performance of her life. Louis called it masterful, and it was. She made me laugh when I didn't want to even through tears.

She walked up to the curtain between life and death, threw it open for those of us who have never really faced that kind of tragedy, and taught us something about grace and humor in the worst possible situation.

Her ability to keep the audience with her through the whole thing was nothing short of miraculous. The talent Tig displayed in taking something like cancer, the death of a loved one, and other awful experiences (all true, at that) and making us laugh at it--amazing. Really, truly amazing.

I'm fascinated in the mechanics of comedy. That's part of why I love Louis so much; he's a comedian's comedian. He understands the deeper currents of confronting people's fears and doubts and pointing out the absurdity in our own shame. Comedy is about dealing with fear and anxiety. The best comedians can make you look hard at yourself by using themselves as a mirror.

The trick is making us laugh at what we see. Louis does this well. Tig Notaro did it in her set better than anyone. Period.

She did it with humility and raw emotion, and I want more than anything to give her a hug. To tell her how much I hope she does well. To thank her for an experience I can't get out of my head.

But I can't. So I wrote this. It's a sad imitation and she'll probably never read it, but if I can convince even one person out there to buy the special and hear what I heard, felt what I felt, I'll have done at least some small good.

The link is here. I can't be clear enough that you should click on it.

The Author I Am (Advice and Evidence for Indie Writers) by Josh Guess

For a good while now I've been trying to steer clear of writing too much about writing. It's a little self-centered and frankly I don't know that many people are interested in hearing about my job. I don't expect you to come home from the factory or the nursing home (I work at one of those for my day job) and write a long series of posts about it. I don't think I should either.

Occasionally, though, I get the itch to update anyone who is interested on what's happening with me and my career and to share my experiences. The things that work and don't might be useful to you if you're an indie writer or are thinking of becoming one. Maybe not, but this is my disclaimer: nothing I say is presented as gospel. Also, nothing I say is intended to be bragging on my part. I'm just as surprised as anyone that I've sold book one.

But first, a little about who I am.

I am not a structured image. I don't do PR and have gimmicks and stuff like that. This is the only joshuaguess.com you'll find; infrequently updated and just a sort of informal blog. Not that I don't intend to build a "real" website at some point, but that's just not a priority for me. I like interacting with my fans who so often become my friends via social media. A professional website might be pretty and all that jazz, but I much prefer joking around with readers on Facebook and Twitter. It's more personal, faster, and much easier.

There are a lot of paths for authors to take. I suggest trying out whatever methods suit you. I don't have the resources to quit my job and take up writing full-time, so there's no media blitz from me. I don't have a lot of time to write as it is. I'm not spending any of it trying to write regular stuff on my blog solely to appear cute or to gain attention.

You might be able to do that. The Bloggess is a great example of that kind of writer. She's as honest and straightforward as it's possible for a human to be. She's a brilliant writer that used her platform and considerable talent to make a name for herself. Then she wrote a book that sold like hotcakes. Which is a lot, because hotcakes are fucking delicious. Jenny (that's her real name) does one or two regular features on her blog and they work well. I think that's because she developed them organically over time.

She does her own PR, and it's as darkly funny and brutally filthy as the rest of her work. I love it. She comes across as genuine in every way, and that's a huge part of why people love her.

That's not easy to do. Some authors tend toward self-aggrandizement, talking about their work incessantly. Those are the ones who have photo shoots with lots of, uh, cleverly posed pictures. They're the ones who have silly gimmicks on their web pages that are written in a way or from a perspective specifically designed to create an impression about what kind of person they are. Maybe it's a "rant" section to create the idea the writer is a tough customer that tells it like it is. It might be the author writing a blog post or review from the perspective of a fictional character once a week. There are a lot of them. And for those people that may work.

As a reader, that turns me off. So I don't use them as a writer. But, hey, whatever tickles your pickle.

To me, being genuine is the most important thing. I may tone down what I say and not get into details of my points of view, but by and large what you see is what you get. I think authenticity is vital to the reader. You might read something I've written and think I'm a huge dick afterward, but you'll know for sure that you come to that opinion honestly. I don't put on a show to try and lure you in.

What does all this mean? Nothing, except that your image is a part of how your reader perceives you. It isn't just your writing. I only want you to think about that going forward.

That's the advice part. Now for the evidence.

Totally separate from all of the above is the pure numbers of how I'm doing at this point in my writing career. Some people are appalled at anyone divulging the amount of money they make. I told you all months ago that in 2011 I made just over $6000 in royalties, all from my eBooks. A lot of my fans, friends, and family were stunned by that number. Put it in one lump sum like that and it seems like a lot of money to make for someone typing on his couch while watching Hoarders.

And you know what? That's exactly the right reaction. I still don't quite believe it myself. I chalk it up to a ludicrously supportive fan base, some dedication on my part, and metric tons of sheer luck.

Which makes the next bit a little strange: At the end of November, I will get a check from Amazon that will bring my total income for 2012 to just shy of $11,000. I have no idea what October will bring in sales, and as I'll be getting paid the October royalties at the end of December I'm not even going to guess.

For a bit of clarity I beat last year's royalties by the end of June. Halfway through the year and I'd made as much as the entire previous year. I attribute this, again, to my (growing) fan base, my dedication, GIGATONS of luck, and the addition of Kindle Select into the mix.

There's a lot of back and forth about Select and I'm not rehashing it here. Google arguments about the program if you're interested. As for me, my audience has grown tremendously over the last ten and a half months of being in the program. I've given away somewhere near twenty thousand books in that time. I've had higher sales each month in comparison to 2011. I've grown my fanbase organically--that is, by word of mouth and through getting books out there to eReaders--instead of through ads or blog posts or reviews or guest spots on so-and-so's website. I'm not nay-saying those things, by all means do them if you feel the need. But they take up time I just don't have.

I am absolutely floored by the growth in my income this year. Most of it has been eaten by medical bills from when I had my appendix removed as well as a dozen other nibbling costs over that time. But the point is, I had the money to cover them. Select had a lot to do with the jump in my income. Every bit of analysis I can do on my numbers supports that. Might not work for you, but it's worth keeping tabs on.

In short, the things that work for me: engaging my fans directly, which I can fortunately still do as I'm not some big name with millions of fans. I tend to just be myself, which does turn some people off but creates surprisingly fierce loyalty among the remainder. I've made some good friends that way, and people see me as more than a carefully-crafted image or just some faceless neutral voice saying, "I wrote this book. Reading it would not be unpleasant for you, fellow human."

I'm a person to them, which is good given I actually am a person. I'm certainly not a complex computer program sent from the future to slowly gain your love and trust as a public figure only to make the inevitable slide into a cyborg apocalypse that much easier. Perish the thought. I don't know what you're talking about. Who said cyborgs? Not this infiltration unit, that's for sure.

And I think I'll end here. Like my grandma always says, "Leave them asking for more...information on whether or not you're an agent of Skynet."

Lots of Free Books (and the release of Book Five!) by Josh Guess


Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to the newest addition to the Living With the Dead family:

This New Disease, book five.

As I'm sure some of my regular readers have guessed, I'm doing another big giveaway to celebrate the release of my new book. While This New Disease will still cost $3.99, you can get the first four books absolutely free starting on the morning of Sunday, September 9th. That's right! Starting tomorrow and through Thursday you can get all four individual volumes of LWtD free on the Kindle store, as well as Year One, which collects books one and two and contains a lot of bonus material.

So, please, share this post and let your friends know. Take the free books, buy the fifth one if you like, and enjoy!

Links!

With Spring Comes The Fall, book one.

The Bitter Seasons, book two.

Year One, which collects book one and two, plus has a TON of bonus material, including five short stories, a behind the scenes look at LWtD, and a whole novella set in the LWtD universe. It's a deal. Especially because it's free.

The Hungry Land, book three.

The Wild Country,  book four.

The LendInk Disaster [Updated] by Josh Guess

[Updated for clarity on a small but important point. Important to me, anyway]

I usually avoid much topical discussion here, but since the recent events involving eBook lending site LendInk involve many self-published authors like me, I want to weigh in with my two pennies.

For those of you who don't know, LendInk was (the site is still down as of right now, so we'll stick with the past tense) a site where Kindle and Nook users could search through every book on both those platforms and try to find a person to let them borrow it using the 'lending' feature. For the record, this is completely in accordance with the rules set by Amazon and Barnes & Noble, so LendInk wasn't doing anything wrong.

The basics of the story are this: a bunch of authors found LendInk's website and were like "Ruh-Roh, this isn't Amazon/Barnes & Noble, yet my book is listed here!"

Apparently not a lot of investigation went on. Instead, Twitter happened.

If those initial authors had done a tiny bit of digging, they'd have discovered that LendInk was not, as they simply assumed, pirating every eBook in existence. Instead it was just a meeting place for people who wanted to borrow books from each other, much like a book club.

So a ton of authors assumed that all the pretty pictures of book covers meant PIRACY OH NOES and decided to send out tons of DMCA notifications and various other means of getting the site shut down. A few of them even threatened the page admin for LendInk--from what I understand, a disabled veteran--and I firmly hope the jackasses who did that get in all the legal trouble they deserve.

The real gist of this post, other than to decry the thoughtless actions of people that were too lazy and angry to bother taking ten minutes to figure out if they were actually being pirated, is that even if LendInk were pirating their work, I don't think it would be that bad.

Let me explain.

An author friend of mine actually sent me an email about LendInk as all this was happening. As someone who pays some bills with his writing income, my first reaction was to be upset. Not because I have any reason to, but just a gut instinct. After a few minutes I remembered that the whole reason I started Living With the Dead in the first place was because J.A. Konrath convinced me that piracy could actually be a good thing. [Update/Edit: I want to make it very clear that the friend who sent me the email in question was NOT one of those spazzy people who freaked out. Her publisher was even concerned about copyright issues, but instead of going on a rampage, she acted responsibly and did her homework. Less than an hour later she sent a second email with the right information. She didn't call for anyone's head or try to join the Twitter jihad. I meant to put this in the original post but the words kind of got away from me. I feel the need to correct now because I worry she thinks I was lumping her in with the others. I'm not. She's full of win, and I'll fight any man that says different.]

See, Konrath is one of the pioneers of digital self-publishing. Early on, he gave away his books as DRM-free files. As the free copies multiplied across the interwebs, his sales generally went up. I know, that seems to fly in the face of what the movie and music industries have been saying about piracy, but it was enough to convince me. That's why I started the blog and gave it away for free online. People like free. Sometimes a whole lot of them.

My guess is that the people who most viciously attacked LendInk were probably the ones who needed it most. Reasonable professionals (or at least semi-professional) will take the time and effort to make sure they're being infringed before invoking the deadly forces of internet censorship. Those folks tend to be the ones who make money writing. I won't swear to it, since I haven't researched the people who did this to a legally operating site, but I'd bet money that most of them are indies who really need the sales. Self-publishing is hard and often thankless. I can see someone struggling to make a name and some money getting royally pissed that a website was stealing their stuff.

Except they weren't. And if they'd taken a minute to think about it, they would have realized how wrong they were. I mean, if freely available versions of our work were a bad thing, then why the hell would anyone do free promotions? I do them on Amazon regularly, and they boost my sales. Piracy is essentially the same thing; giving it away for free. Sure, true piracy is out of your control, but there are seven billion people on this planet. If a few hundred thousand of them pirate my books, and that means a few thousand actually pay for them as a result of their popularity, then I'm a happy camper.

Granted, that scenario hasn't happened for me, but it's preferable to committing career seppuku. That's what is happening to the authors who took part in this. Their short-sighted behavior and terrible attitudes, on the internet for all to see forever and ever, are tantamount to giving up writing. There's already a backlash against many of them on Amazon as people deliberately sabotage their pages with one-star reviews. I don't think that's right, but as an author I'm biased.

All told, it's a bad situation. Maybe LendInk could have avoided this by putting a huge disclaimer on their homepage stating that they were affiliated with Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but the fault isn't theirs. The blame has to put squarely where it belongs: on my peers. As independent authors, we are business owners. It's our responsibility to know exactly what the particulars of our agreements with Amazon and other platforms entail. We have to be careful not to give in to instant rage and righteous indignation. We have to make sure that when we make a stand, it's based on fact.

To do otherwise makes us look like ignorant amateurs. I don't know about the rest of you, but I've put in too much time and love into my work to let that happen.

Just a thought.

The End by Josh Guess

The title of this post says it all. I've been thinking about it for a while now, and I've come to the decision to give up writing. It's been a hard time, but I think this will be the best thing for me and my family.

...

Nah, just screwing with you. Things are actually going really well! In fact I'm working on a lot of stuff at the moment, and as I promised the other day I want to share some news with you. Awesome news!!! <---see, three exclamation points worth of awesome.

Four or five years ago I started working on a concept for a story, a comic book. I'm a comic nerd from way back, and I've always wanted to try my hand at one. With some excellent feedback and a few very clever ideas from some close friends, I came up with a conceptually finished product. A story. More, a storyline planned out for at least a hundred issues. I even worked with an artist friend of mine to create a fully finished comic, but he was unable to complete more than the first stages. You know how that goes; family duties, full-time work, etc.

I thought the comic was dead for about two years, but recently reconnected with another old friend who was aching to do some comic book art. After some discussion he agreed to take it on, and he has been working on the blue lines and finalizing character designs for more than a week now.

Once the comic is penciled we'll start looking for someone to digitally ink and color it, and after that we'll print up physical copies for submission to some comic companies. If that doesn't work out we have other plans, but I'm hopeful. Not expecting miracles, but hopeful anyway.

As for the title of this post, it's the name of the comic. The End.

It's a story that grew from my love of villains, good villains, complex and damaged people with reasons and layers for the terrible things they do. I don't want to give it all away, but my hope is that once we've got some finished product I can convince my artist to do a few pages for an ashcan book, a sort of sneak peek at the story. I want to share it with you. I want to capture your imagination. I want you to fall in love with the characters as readers just as much as I have as a writer.

Worst case scenario, I don't get a publisher. That's pretty likely given how many submissions Image, Dark Horse, and the others who accept them receive. Don't worry: one way or another, you'll get to read The End, no matter what else happens. It's very near and dear to me. Work on the first issue is at very early stages, as I said, but I'm hoping to go farther with this. Cross your fingers, wish upon a star, and all that jazz.

Josh

My Heart In Aurora by Josh Guess

As I was at work this morning, at exactly 5:47--I had just looked at the clock--my boss comes up to me and tells me about a shooting at a midnight showing of Dark Knight Rises. She told me about it mainly because I've been incessantly talking about the movie for the last two days at work, prattling on about how excited I am to see it. 

Since then I've felt this awful sadness whenever I think about seeing the movie. I'll be going out with my wife and best friend on Sunday morning. It isn't often I get truly emotional about things like this. When Virginia Tech happened, I felt bad for the victims but it didn't hit home for me. Maybe because I've been thinking about going to see the final Chris Nolan Batman film, putting myself in that chair mentally for weeks now. Maybe that's why I feel such serious disquiet about the shooting. 

Not that twelve people's deaths isn't enough. You hear about these kinds of things on the news and your brain transforms it into a sense that it won't happen to you. My brain is telling me that it could. That could have been me, my wife, my best friend Patrick. We live in Kentucky, of course, but the idea is the same. One minute we might be enjoying the film, the next just gone. 

The randomness of it staggers me. So senseless and terrible. I write a lot of deaths into my work, some of them gruesome and truly awful. I talk about the waste of it and the loss of human potential and love and wonder that happens when a person passes away. 

And I feel that so much right now. As if those folks were my friends. 

I posted a tweet about the shooting when I got home this morning, expressing love for all the victims. Shockingly, one of my fans on my author page on facebook responded to that tweet when it was posted there. She says here that she and her husband were in the theater when the shooting started. They ran like hell to get away. 

That struck me hard. We live in this huge world, but the connections between us are so startlingly close. Here I am, a guy trying to entertain with his words on his couch in central Kentucky, and I almost lost someone that supported me. Someone I didn't know but was there as a part of my life anyway. It's weird and wonderful and terrifying all at the same time. One single degree of separation from this tragedy. 

I found myself feeling genuine relief that the lady in question and her husband made it out okay. She's a reader--describing herself as a 'loyal reader'--but before today she was a profile on a page. A number in my 'like' column. Now she's someone that I know, a person whose potential and impact on the people around her, including myself, could have been gone in a blink. 

Is there a point to this? I don't know. I'm feeling more grief for an event outside my own personal sphere of experience than I have at any point since 9/11. I want to do something for those people, and for Jaqueline Lader, the fan herself. I wish I could help. Even if just to give comfort to the injured, to the families of the slain. Maybe it's selfish because I think it would make me feel better, but I also deeply want every one of them to know that I care. We care. 

Human beings let unimportant things get between us too often. I'm as guilty of it as anyone. In the wake of tragedy it's vital that we remember that we're all human. I don't know what drove the killer to act as he did, and I'm sure the media will have theory after theory and people all over will place blame on whatever issue is their pet peeve. 

I don't want to do that. I don't care what made him do it, and I don't care what happens to him now other than hoping justice is served. I care that all too often we see awful things happen and get sucked into argument and finger-pointing. We forget the real human impact of the event itself. My hope is to avoid that. It may be a silly dream, but I want to see sympathy and love for all those affected to a degree that no one can imagine. 

Surely, if one man can cause so much pain, ten thousand--ten million--of us can at least begin to heal it. 

Excellent Authors and Friends by Josh Guess

I promised I'd post this today, and I feel pretty good that I'm doing it. I've been meaning to mention some of my author friends again, as it's been a long time since I've done that. So while you're waiting for Monster to come out, please check out each of these links.

Annetta Ribken can be found at Wordwebbing, which is her website and blog. Normally I'd link to all the stuff Netta has written, but the list is pretty long. Instead allow me to point you to her Amazon author page, where you can peruse her works.

Netta and I became friends after she read the first installment of Living With the Dead and contacted me on facebook. She has been a font of great advice, wisdom, and deeply inappropriate humor for me. She's awesome and talented as all hell, one of the few authors I know that excels equally as an editor and writer. If you're having a hard time picking one of her works to read, let me suggest her novel, Athena's Promise. I've read several of her collections of flash fiction, but this novel has a special place in my heart, as she allowed me to beta read it. It's fun and funny, with moments of beauty and darkness. You won't be disappointed.

Lori Whitwam theoretically writes romance, but I'll be damned if she can't bend genres better than almost anyone I've read. Her debut novel, Make or Break is damn good. But it's the novella she wrote for my Year One collection of Living With the Dead--Monsters Unmasked--that really and truly blew me away with her talent. Maybe because I read it before her novel. Monsters is a sort of romance set in a world overrun by the living dead (my world, in fact) that manages to convey the most vile deeds a human being can do, yet show the strength and power one woman has to overcome them.

Lori is, much like Netta, snarky and hilarious. She has been a sounding board, and our mutual love of dogs and being as smart-assed as possible has been sort of a bonding experience. I've been promised that when she and Netta take over the world, I'll be spared. Even if I have to work as an oiled-up manservant.

If you already have Year One and don't want to spent the money to buy Monsters because it's in that collection, then consider buying Make or Break. Or if you're feeling generous and want to support a talented lady, go ahead and buy both.

Joseph Paul Haines  is the third person (counting the above ladies as the first two) who just wrecks my brain with how good he is. Joe wrote Marooned under the name P.J. Druce, a young adult novel that I also beta read. When Joe and I first became friends it was through Lori and Netta, and the ladies suggested I buy Joe's short story collection Ten With A Flag. I did. Then I bought the collection Brave New Worlds just because he has a story in it.

Joe is awesome. I mean that on a lot of levels. He's supremely capable of creating darkness and making you enjoy it, and I couldn't have been happier with Marooned. That book is a lot like Joe himself--complex, honest, and layered in ways that keep you interested.

It's hard to put into words how much I want you to support these folks. As writers they're awesome, but as people they're even better. I can't explain how funny and fun they are, because that's like trying to map out why your best friend is your best friend with dry words and no context.

It helps that their personalities come out in their work. You get to see pieces of them in their characters: Lori, snarky romantic, Netta as the take-no-shit badass with a heart full of hope and love, and Joe studying the things moving around in the shadows but laughing at them instead of cringing away.

I support them. If I won the lottery I'd fulfill a dream of mine and start a publishing house just for indies. I know that seems like a contradiction, but it isn't. I wish I could give them advances and pay them to do the thing they love full-time, do a lot of the work for them, promote and advertise. Because they're worth it as authors and people.

But I can't do that. Not yet, anyway. Maybe when I'm making Stephen King money someday. For now, all I can do is urge you to take a chance, spend on their books what you would spend on a cup of overpriced coffee, and let them take you away for a while.

You'll enjoy the trip.

'Monster' and Real Life Things by Josh Guess

I've been meaning to write this post for a while. I've been working on Monster, the sequel to Beautiful, for almost a year. In fact, it will be a year in a few weeks. I want to let you all know the status of the book and why it isn't done, and you can throw metaphorical rotten fruit at me in the comments if you like.

First, please understand that I am extremely busy. I write two Living With the Dead books a year, each of them the length of a novel if not in the same format. That's more than a lot of full-time writers manage. And I'm not full-time at this. I work a regular job as a nurse aide, and that figures in to the problem.

About this time last year the way our schedules are set at work changed. Now, being a CNA is a hard, physical job. It's also pretty emotionally draining. Ever had a loved one pass away or deal with a long-term, serious illness? That's rough for a lot of people. Imagine doing it every day.

Right now I work four days and am off two, rinse and repeat. That means that I get two days off with my wife out of every six weeks since my days off change with each cycle. So not only have I been exhausted by work, but I've been trying to spend the time I have at home with Jess, between writing LWtD and trying to work on Monster.

I'll be honest: for the last year I've been struggling to even move at times, because I'm physically and mentally worn out. I changed the schedule for LWtD so I had a free day every four in which I could research, because I just didn't have the focus to write and research, much less the time.

And the big one, the one that will probably have my mom calling or messaging me shortly after I post this because she's my mom and she worries...

I've been depressed. Not depths-of-my-soul despair, the kind that keeps people in bed, but it has been there. It has been a struggle for me to get out of the low points that the depression has been trying (and occasionally succeeding) to put me in. Don't worry about me, please; I'm okay. I'm dealing with it and over the last few weeks I've been able to get to a much better place.

But these are the reasons that Monster isn't done. I'm stretched thin and trying my best, but on top of everything else this book has become something much different than what I originally planned. It's darker, more focused on the consequences of the main character's choices, and it's hard for me to write it for that reason as well as all of the above. The book won't be out this month or next, I can be pretty certain of that. All I can ask is for your patience and maybe a little understanding.

I've also been meaning to post some links to some other Indie authors you might enjoy, but I'm saving that for my next post. I want to give them all a place to shine without my emo inner child overshadowing them. I'm going to post that tomorrow for sure, so you'll at least have some damn good fiction to read while I work on this book.

I'll also be doing a post about Monster itself within the next week, what you can expect and why it's a very different book than Beautiful.

Back to work.

Josh

My Entire Zombie Series For FREE by Josh Guess

Hello! For those of you who have never been here before, my name is Joshua Guess. I write things.

Primarily, I write a blog called Living With the Dead. It's a fictional blog told in real time and set in the zombie apocalypse. Since March of 2010, I've been writing an alternate reality there based on my life. Basically, I write a story and give it away for free.

But I also sell them on the Kindle store, where I am currently exclusive. Why would people pay for what they can get for free? Several reasons. Some folks enjoy LWtD and want to support me as an artist. Some people enjoy the convenience of having easy-to-read versions on their Kindle, smartphone, or Kindle program for PC. A few enjoy the bonus material I've included in a couple of the books.

Starting Saturday morning (June 9), and running through the 13th, you don't have to make the choice. Because for those five days, every LWtD book is free on the Kindle store. Yep, the entire series so far. Now you can read through the blog in six month increments at your convenience. The links are:

Living With the Dead: With Spring Comes The Fall (Book 1, covers the first six months)

Living With the Dead: The Bitter Seasons (Book 2, covers the second six months)

Living With the Dead: Year One (Combines Books 1 and 2, has five short stories, a lovely novella, and some behind-the scenes stuff from me)

Living With the Dead: The Hungry Land ( Book 3, covers the first six months of year two)

Living With the Dead: The Wild Country ( Book 4, covers the second six months of year two)

I'd love for all of you to grab all five. If you decide to get year one, it won't hurt a thing to also get books one and two as well. They aren't huge, and every download can help me in the rankings.

PLEASE BE AWARE: these collections are largely unedited. That's intentional, as I wanted to convey a sense of realism and urgency. The fictional me in the story doesn't have time to worry about making sure every single thing is perfect. That being said, sometime down the road I'll be paying an editor to do some cleanup. Because while people understand my reasoning, it still bugs them. Hell, it bugs me.

Also, I'm planning on releasing a "Year Two" compilation with the release of book 5 in the fall, and I've got a contest going--The Write Away Contest--that you may be interested in. If so, click on the link and check it out.

Thanks to each and every one of you. Please share and tell your friends.

Oh--and welcome to my world.

Muahahaha!

The Official "Write Away!" Contest Post by Josh Guess

In my last post I gave you a quick and dirty explanation of a contest I'm currently running. Since these things are apparently supposed to have names, I'm calling this contest the "Write Away!" contest. Here's the official skinny:

Overview:

Six submitted stories will be chosen by me and my trusty beta readers to be included in my "Year Two" collection of Living With the Dead. Each of those six people will receive fifty dollars via paypal and promotion within the book itself as well as on this blog, the Living With the Dead blog, Facebook, and wherever else I can fit them. Submissions are open until August the 15th, and may be sent to me joshguess22@gmail.com with the subject line, "Write Away Contest". 

Requirements:

There is no word limit, and thematically all I ask is that each submission be somehow related to zombies. They can be funny, scary, fantastic, all or none of the above. I want every person to feel free to write whatever strikes their fancy. 

However, there are some very basic restrictions that I don't think will be a problem but need to be stated for the record. Amazon does not allow necrophilia, rape, beastiality, or incest for the purposes of sexual arousal. In short, that means if you're going to write and submit erotica for this contest (which is totally cool with me) then please avoid using those topics as a part of any erotic scenes. If you send me something that violates this rule, I have to nix it. Sorry. 

Rights:

I am NOT buying the sum publishing rights to your story. There are many shady authors and publishers out there that will try to do this to you, and I'm not one of you. The only thing submitting your work to me does is give me the right to include it in the "Year Two" collection of Living With the Dead forever and ever. 

What this means is that you retain all other rights. If you want to include your short fiction in your own collection that happens to publish the very same day as "Year Two", that's okay. You can do whatever you want with it. All you're allowing me is the right to use it in this book for as long as I want to. 

Additional Info:

If you're an author of any stripe, published, indie, or just starting to get into writing, and you're willing to forgo the fifty bucks to get your name out there, I'm willing to include your story if it meets the approval of my beta readers (and my own, of course.) Each author who has their work added in to "Year Two"--whether they're recipients of money or not--will have their website links and whatnot added in the front of the book. 

If you don't care about the money and just want a shot to get in the collection, say so in your submission email. 

Any questions, comments, or concerns can be emailed to me or written as comments on this post. I'll do my best to check it as often as I can. Which might not be every day, just fair warning. 

So Here's the Thing by Josh Guess

A lot of you have been asking me about a "Year Two" version of Living With the Dead. I released "Year One" at the same time as book 2 last year, and it killed sales of book two. So this year, when I released book 4, many people wondered why books 3 and 4 weren't bundled in a "Year Two" package. Now you know.

However:

When book 5 of Living With the Dead comes out in early September, I *will* be putting out "Living With the Dead: Year Two". I know, you're super excited. I'll be writing some short fiction as bonus material, but I also want to put out the call for other writers to do the same.

Here's the spiel.

I'm looking for six pieces of fiction from other writers to add to this book. "Year Two" itself will be about 200,000 words, or the length of two books (which makes sense, as it actually is two books). I'm doing at least two short stories, and I want YOU to submit something as well. So from now until August 15th, I'm accepting submissions from anyone and everyone who wants to give.

Requirements:
Zombie-related.

That's it. Your story can be dramatic, funny, silly, whatever you like. The six people I'll be selecting for this will each receive $50 for their submission. Unlike some people out there that put together collections of stuff, I'm not asking you to give up the rights to your work. By submitting, all you're doing is giving me permission to publish your piece in the "Year Two" collection forever and ever. You can do whatever you like with your work, even if you want to publish it yourself the same day. All I'm buying with your $50 is the right to borrow it for this collection ONLY.

Of course, if you don't care about money and want to submit something, I'm happy to add more than six to the collection. Right now I'm budgeted for $300 split between six people. If you want your name our there in this collection and don't care about getting paid, let me know.

I'll be doing another post in the next few days to make this a bit more formal, but that's the gist of it. Send all submissions to me at joshguess22@gmail.com.

Hope to hear from you soon.


Allow Me To Review The Shit Out of "The Avengers" by Josh Guess

I saw The Avengers today. I have some things that need to be said.

First, to the critics:

I've read a few of your reviews, and they seem to trend negative not because of the movie itself, but because of the genre, though I'm not sure if you mean action movies or comic book movies. Either way, most of you who've given negative marks have done so using the most verbose and flowery language possible, pointing to the cavernous emptiness and blah blah blah.

My response to you: climb out of the ivory tower, put down the Jonathan Franzen novel, and pick up a goddamn comic book. You're not doing anyone favors by being as out of touch with modern culture as, say, Mitt Romney.

Now, on to my own thoughts.

Is The Avengers perfect? No. There was only one perfect film, and it died for our sins so other films could know the joy of record-breaking opening weekends.

That being said, there was very little to dislike about the movie. I didn't have any issues with it at all, and generally I'm a very picky moviegoer. One small complaint might be a few moments when Scarlett Johansson didn't quite hit her mark as an actor, but those were small things. Easy to ignore.

The script played out beautifully, dialog working seamlessly with the acting and direction. As a comic book fan, I can't express to you how utterly perfect each of the main characters felt in their roles. That goes all the way around--dialog and personalities were spot-on, but the action itself was stylized and tailored to each character. Take Captain America as he bounces around the battlefield, fighting with acrobatic grace one moment and rescuing civilians the next. There were many small scenes taken directly from my mind, images so iconic that you can't help associating them with the characters moving in front of you. Cap, again, as he jumps and pulls himself into a ball behind his shield to escape an explosion. Brilliant and logical.

At two and a half hours long, the movie should have dragged at some point. It didn't. The progression was smooth and always interesting, but the truly surprising element was how much comedy fit in to the story. Joss Whedon's touch was evident there, the hilarious moments between characters giving the film a sense of reality. I believed Tony Stark was a real guy, that Steve Rodgers could walk off the screen at any moment.

It's an action movie, but one with heart. Seeing the struggle Mark Ruffalo goes through (probably the best performance in the film) as Bruce Banner trying to contain the Hulk, actually made me feel bad for the guy. I could see Tony Stark being budged from his self-centered mindset by seeing the suffering around him. I felt the shift in his character.

It might not be a perfect movie, but it is a perfect example of what superheroes should be. At their core, the characters are human (mostly) or at least have a basic humanity. They represent the modern equivalent of Hercules as flawed people with great power. They screw up, they fight, but ultimately they use that power to protect those who can't protect themselves.

I don't know what some critics expected or hoped for from The Avengers but it's clear to me they have no concept of the genre. In reading those negative reviews, I got a sense of disdain for it simply because of what the movie was and not for what the movie says.

Not every film has to be an art house classic, people. It's okay to produce action films, superhero films, and it's just as fine to enjoy them. Bad ones are bereft of meaning in the name of making money, decent ones tell a story but never truly captivate. Great ones capture the spirit of the characters and make your heart move.

This is one of the greats. Hands down. I've never laughed so much during a comic book or action movie, nor felt tears come to my eyes as often. I rooted out loud at times, cheered loudly when bad guys got their comeuppance, and geeked out at every single nod to the source material.

If your opinion is that The Avengers could somehow have been better, then I'm going to tell you something I generally never say about opinions: You are wrong. This movie couldn't have been a better translation of the story. Period.

Now, if you haven't seen it, go do that. Seriously, stop reading and go.

Use the System: An Indie Author's Method by Josh Guess

I promised in my last post, the one where I told everyone about my record-shattering sales in March, that my next piece would be about the methods I used to do it. I'm gonna throw in my disclaimer here so no one gives me shit or gets offended. 

DISCLAIMER: I am not better than you. I am not bragging. Every time I write anything about my book sales or try to give advice based on my own experience, I get at least one email blasting me as a small-timer with a big ego. As always, I'm just telling you what I've done and what works for me. Your methods might be better and more effective for you, and if so I think that's nifty. There are a lot of writers out there struggling just as I am, and I take a lot of advice from them. And from bigger-named writers than me (which is most of them), so relax. I'm telling you this because you might be irritated with your current sales, and maybe trying something different will help. 

Okay, we're on the same page now. 

April has been another good month for me. I thought at the beginning of it that I'd be lucky to make $800 or $900 in royalties, but I underestimated the aftereffects of my last promotion. You may remember me giving away most of my books last month for five days, all at once. During that time the four books I was giving away were downloaded about 4,000 times. That's an average of 1k each, obviously. Not bad, because one of the things I focus on is getting my name out there. Putting books in front of people. 

The advantage in selling eBooks is that the vitally important 'word of mouth' works electronically and automatically as well as between real, living people. Folks who like my books tell friends, and sometimes the friends buy them. But the reason I'm happy to give away thousands of copies is because doing so on Amazon (where I'm currently exclusive) means the metadata for those books gets a nice boost. 

If you're a writer who self-publishes, you need to know this stuff. You may not need all the technical jargon, but an understanding of how the system works means more aptly utilizing it. 

Go to any Amazon page for a kindle book and you'll see several places where suggested books appear. Metadata affects that. If you've just published a book and sold five copies, that field is going to be bare. Which means that your book isn't going to appear on many (if any) pages of similar titles. The best way I've found to populate those areas is giving away books. Don't think of the time your book is free as lost profit, but rather as a long-term investment in building a wide base of pages on which your book may appear. 

It all seems complex and abstract. That's because it is. Watching book trends, researching suggested sales, trying to grasp the hugely complicated system of sales interactions on Amazon is hard. It makes my brain hurt a lot and I've been studying it and learning it for more than two years. 

So that's the big one: give away your work. You can do this on your own if you don't want to get into the Select program on Amazon by simply giving it away on your website or blog. This may be helpful or not--I do it through Amazon because that method builds my potential audience on that platform. Doing it on your own can only indirectly affect your sales. For my money doing it through Amazon is faster, easier, and way more effective. 

The other things I do, let's see...

I watch my sales. A lot of other authors don't recommend doing this because it can make you anxious and maybe a little down. I know I get that way when my sales start to decline sometimes. I still check them often, because I want to get an idea when my best sales times are, know what days tend to be my strongest, and to observe long and short-term trends. This is another of those things you may not want to do, but it works for me. When I first got into the Select program, I used two of my free promotion days to give away a book during my two best sales days--Tuesday and Wednesday at the time--and saw immediate results. Sales of that book had been flat for months. I was selling maybe twenty or thirty copies. After those two days were up (600 free copies downloaded) I sold another twenty in about two days. Not a ton of money, but I doubled my income for the month. 

Paying attention to the prices of hot books is important as well. Ebook platforms had their flirtation with the 99 cent eBook craze, but for the most part the luster has worn off that fad. I've never had a lot of luck pricing my books that low, and instead of making up the income difference through volume, I just lost money compared to the prices I'd had them at before. Really, even the $2.99 pricepoint, once a standard on Amazon as it was the lowest price authors could make the 70% royalty rate at--is beginning to wear thin. A few months ago J.A. Konrath had a guest blogger on his site, and she gave very good reasons to price your books higher. Her name (which is the most awesome name EVER) is Elle Lothlorien, and she makes an excellent case for higher eBook prices in this post riiiiiight here.

That's pretty much how I operate. I'm obsessive about finding trends in my sales, understanding the machinery of how the rank system, suggested sales, and assorted pieces of the Amazon pie work, and I give away my stuff. Now, a few caveats. 

I read obsessively. J.A. Konrath's blog is a damn fine resource for writers trying to make a living through self-publishing. Most of what I've learned has been from him, and he's the best kind of teacher: one who experiments constantly himself, gives other authors a platform to share what works for them, and understands that what works for one may not work for another. 

I gave away my novel Beautiful for five days recently. Almost 900 downloads while it was free, but virtually no sales since then. Which is strange, because the last time I gave it away sales jumped up pretty fast and high. Nothing is guaranteed in this business, we all know that. We work our asses off to succeed, but the truth is that we have to keep at it, keep innovating where we can. Slackers need not apply. 

I think a major factor in the sales bump I've had since my last giveaway has to do with the fact that all the books I gave away were in a series. All of them were close to each other in rank on the various top 100 lists on the kindle store, and that stands out to people. The covers are all similarly themed. I have to imagine that a lot of people saw books one, two, and three and said to themselves, "Hey, all three of these are in the top 15 on the free Contemporary Fantasy top 100 list. Maybe there's something good here."

Having a series helps a lot from what I've gathered through observation. It may be different for you. 

I can't give much more advice than that. Write well, get a good cover, and always learn everything you can. Konrath isn't the only indi author out there who has great insight and experience. Find other authors, get their take on the process as well as the nuts and bolts of how it all works. It may not help your sales to change things up (through giveaways or whatever) but I'm damn sure it won't hurt. 

Don't hold me to that, though. I don't want to get mobbed if I'm totally wrong there. 

Record-Breaking by Josh Guess

As of February of this year, my best month on record for sales was March of 2011. In that month I released book 2 of Living With the Dead (The Bitter Seasons) as well as the Year One compilation, which contained the first two books as well as five short stories, a novella, and some behind-the-scenes notes from me on the origin of the story.

That month I made just over $1,100 dollars in royalties. My mom hates the idea that I'm sharing income like this, but we live in a different world than the one she started out in professionally. Google can give us the income numbers for a lot of professions, but writing is very much one of the last closed doors for income reports. I'm going to tell you not because I want to brag, though I am proud of what I've accomplished, but to give some perspective and maybe some hope to other writers out there.

I'm not special. I don't have a lot of name recognition. Like a many of you, I write because I love it, I put in my hours on social networks trying to expand my fan base. I work a full-time job. I've put in hard work and love, and I've made a habit of watching sales trends and working out ways to utilize them to my advantage.

Also, I got lucky. Plain and simple.

In March of this year, I broke my personal record for royalties. If the exchange rate with the British Pound remains around where it is right now, I'll have made right around $2,150. That's not overall sales, that's the royalty amount I'll get in my checking account at the end of May.

Let me say: WOOHOO!

This is great! I'm not saying that only because it's proof of concept that a person with no fan base (most of us Indie writers when we start out) can build a small and loyal one and make some real money. I'm excited because while I'm aware that this level of sales isn't yet sustainable for me, that's a nice big chunk of change I can use for things like fixing my roof and putting money away for retirement.

I'm not going to go into detail as to how I leveraged the Select Program to manage this (that's my next post) because I know many of you other writers out there have done the same. Some of you have had vastly superior results, and I'm happy for you. Some of you haven't had as much luck, which is why I'm writing this post to begin with.

Do. Not. Give. Up.

I've written before that I've come across some rough times with sales, bad reviews, and all the pitfalls that come with putting your work out there for anyone to critique. I fully expect to see a drop off in sales over the next several months, because I'm using 2011 as a model for my expectations. You and I both know how rough and disappointing this job can be, but because so many of you as fellow writers, fans, friends, and family stuck by me when I whined and supported me, I had a record-breaking month.

If you're an author that hasn't had as much success as you'd like (and I think all of us are secretly hoping for Stephen King money in the parts of our brains we don't talk about in public) then take this post as a reason to keep on trying. Not to keep writing--I doubt most of you would stop doing that, as we're all addicts and slaves to the words--but trying new things. I was skeptical of the Select program at first, but it's turned out to be a godsend. Maybe you've tried it and haven't had any luck. That's okay. There are other options, a ton of them for us.

This is a hugely exciting time for authors. I imagine when sales start to slump and I'm between book releases I'll probably start to get cranky again. I hope that when or if that happens, I look back and read this post and decide to try some new promotion or idea.

It's hard to stay dedicated sometimes, but here's your proof of concept. Regular guy like me did it, at least for that one month. Lots of other authors have done a lot more. Konrath and others are telling the truth: writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Let this post be the glass of water that refreshes you a bit as you trot along.

Guts by Josh Guess

So, I intended to make my next post about the results I had from my big book giveaway last month. I'm still going to do that when I get my sales report on the fifteenth, but a very interesting experience came my way a few days ago, and I want to talk about it.

My appendix decided to part ways with me. It was not an amicable split.

I'd been feeling crappy for about a week before Saturday morning. I called into work during that time, which I very rarely do--that was the previous Sunday, I think. When I woke up Friday night I felt a little off. By the morning I knew something was very wrong. My wife and I went to the hospital around noon.

Following some bloodwork, a battery of tests on my urine, and a deeply personal physical examination, I got my first CAT scan. If you've never had the pleasure, let me assure you it's an...interesting experience. The scan plus the contrast material they injected into me made my body heat up by about twenty degrees for a few seconds. I was told that's a normal thing.

Not for me.

My appendix, the scan showed, was so inflamed that it actually started to curl around on itself. I'm not a doctor, but that sounds pretty terrible. So, off to surgery I went. The delay between being told I was going to surgery and it actually happening was less than half an hour. The people at my local hospital were on the ball, not wanting my useless little appendix to rupture and cause all manner of problems.

I didn't really have time to get worried or scared before the Nurse Anesthetist said, "You're going to sleep now," and I did. Not before throwing my eyes open in defiance of that statement, to which he commented that I was "a funny kid." Then, darkness.

Lemme tell ya, waking up from that surgery sucked worse than anything in my life. I felt god-freaking-awful. When the nurse asked if I was in any pain, I mumbled yes, and she said the best five words in the English language: Let's get you some medicine.

Honestly, I didn't have much of an opinion about the surgery. Once the necessity of the thing became clear I just went with the flow. It was afterward, when I was admitted to the hospital and knew I would have to stay there alone, that I began to feel off. My wife Jess and my best friend Patrick were there when I got out of recovery, but I told them to go home and get some rest when I realized how deeply I was about to sleep.

Next morning, I found out my second round of labs were still bad and I had to stay another day to get my white count up. The infection in my appendix had been pretty hardy, and probably had spread. Jess was there by the time I heard that news, and she spent the morning with me. She had to leave to get sleep for work around noon, and I was left alone.

Except for you guys.

Many fans and friends (and some of you are both) sent me messages and well-wishes on Facebook. I spent several hours chatting and commenting back and forth with people, and it was really awesome. I mean that word in its original sense. You filled me with awe. As an adult, I've only had oral surgery before, nothing this big. I've never been in a situation where I had no control. I was in that room, private and nice as it was, and I was poked with needles, trailing an IV, feeling so out of my element that I was sort of lost.

Which is ironic, since full-time job is working in a nursing home. Other side of the coin and all that.

Patrick ended up coming to the hospital that afternoon and hanging out with me, but during the early hours of the morning and in the empty spaces between, I realized how lucky I am to have you. My family, my friends, my digital companions on various social networks, and my fans (who exist among all those groups). You kept me from thinking about the pain in my stomach, the worries over how much all this is going to cost me, and how bad the complications could be if something went wrong.

I don't know if I'm coming across as overly emotional here, but it was really a humbling experience for me. I'm so glad to be home, and I'll be off work for at least another week, so I'll be writing in that time. As thanks for everyone's support, I'm going to do a piece or two of short fiction while I'm off and give it away on this blog. It's not much, but I hope you enjoy it. You all did what you could to keep me sane while I was in the hospital, the least I can do in return is try to entertain you for a while.

It may not seem to you that you did much, but believe me, you did. I'm a creature of habit. When I'm thrown out of my routine I go crazy. I get stressed out, my blood pressure goes up, I can't sleep or relax. It's a serious problem for me. Imagine my surprise that while I read your messages and made snarky comments with many of you, I felt better. And not just felt it--I was measurably better. My blood pressure, along with my anxiety, dropped significantly while I chatted with all of you. I felt at ease during a time that should have nearly driven me insane.

So, I guess what I'm saying is thanks. Thank you for being a friend.

Yeah, I just quoted the Golden Girls theme song at you. You're gonna have to deal with that.

Free Books! (And a Book Release!) by Josh Guess

Okay, so here's the deal: Today I released the fourth book of Living With the Dead. I'm ludicrously happy with this volume, and I want people to read it.

The Wild Country, Living With the Dead book four. But read on. There's a test later.

Fourth in a series, you say. Yes, that would normally mean buying three other books to get there. Logic, that inescapable bastard.

AHA! I have a solution! How about I just GIVE AWAY the first three (well, sort of three) books in the series, so you get the best possible deal? Yeah. Let's do that.

So, starting Saturday morning and running through Wednesday, every Living With the Dead book (except the new one) will be free on the Kindle store. That includes:

With Spring Comes The Fall, book one.

The Bitter Seasons, book two.

Year One, which collects book one and two, plus has a TON of bonus material, including five short stories, a behind the scenes look at LWtD, and a whole novella set in the LWtD universe. It's a deal. Especially because it's free.

And The Hungry Land, book three.

Yes, Year One duplicates the material of the first two books. But hey, it's not like your kindle is gonna get full off that. It has all that juicy bonus material in it. So why not just download every freaking one of them?!

No good reason not to. Unless you already own them, in which case you should pat yourself on the back.

Then you can buy The Wild Country, book 4. I'm not telling you to by any means. But hey, it's four bucks. You get all those other books for free, so really if you bought this one you'd be averaging a dollar a book. I'm not telling you to buy it, but I *do* need a new pair of shoes.

I'm just sayin'. You don't want me to write with cold, unsupported arches, do you? That makes for terrible prose.

And hey, if you decide you want free stuff and don't want to buy the fourth book, that's okay too. I'm sure no kittens will suffer terrible mishaps because of it. No baby otters will be orphaned. You'll just be three books richer, and that makes me a happy camper.