What is it like?

I'm terrible about updating this blog, but I'm trying to get better... I thought this would be an interesting place to start. When people find out I am a full-time author, they don't believe me at first. When they finally do, they inevitably ask the question, "What is it like?" I get it, prior to September of last year, I couldn't fathom it either.

First, being a full-time author is exactly as awesome as you would imagine it to be. I set my own deadlines, I report to no one, my work is 100% flexible. I can do it anywhere, anytime, any way that works for me. I am doing professionally what I did for fun just two short years ago! I mean, I literally just make up stuff and write it down for a living.

There's gotta be a downside, right?

Sort of. As Cypress Hill said, "It's a fun job, but it's still a job." If I pushed back that next book by 6 months, it would mean you couldn't buy it, and I won't get paid! There's no free lunch out there as an independent writer. I get paid when people buy. So, while I can set my deadlines, I still have to produce. Writing one book and settling into a comfortable retirement of tooling around at the beach is a myth. Modern independent, successful writers WRITE! One book does not make a career. If I didn't regularly produce, the fridge is going to be stocked with Natural Ice instead of delicious IPAs, and the kids are going to be wearing my old gym shorts as dress pants.

The other angle, which is good or bad depending on how you look at it, is that as an independent writer, writing is just part of the gig. The other part, which is just as necessary, is marketing. I could write the best book that has ever been put down on paper, but if no one knows about it, what's the point? Some independent writers fail because they don't WRITE, other fall out here because they don't MARKET. Art for its own sake is a waste of time, in my view. People have to experience it to have value, and for people to experience it, they have to know about it. You have to market.

Another curve ball for me personally, I'm running a small press on the side (Cobble Publishing). We have our first outside author releasing in April, then another in May, then another in July, then the second books start to come out... As you can imagine, there's a lot that goes into that with editing, production, marketing, and so on. That's something most authors don't deal with, but it's something I felt was necessary for balance when I went full-time. I can only burn the creative candle for so long before it burns out. The small press is my way of staying in the publishing business while I let my creative batteries recharge.

So, what does all of this look like in real life?

I have a home office, and that is where I work 90% of the time. It's comfortable, the commute is short, and the coffee is cheap. It also allows me to take breaks to play with the kids, walk the dog, and so on. I'd like to stick some naps in there as well, but I've been too busy recently.

Most mornings, I set the alarm clock for 6am. I take my time getting up, turn on the coffee pot, and I'm usually at the computer by 6:15am (ok, ok, I do fall back asleep a few days a week). I bang out my most productive hour of writing or editing until the kids wake up at 7:15. From there, I may keep going if the wife is up, or I help with breakfast and getting the kids out the door. The rest of the morning, I help with the kids off and on, walk the dog about a mile every day, go to the gym maybe twice a week, and work. Typically, my mornings are for writing or editing.

When writing, my goal is 3,000 words a day. I do about 2 months on writing, 2 months on re-writes and edits, and after that, it's off to the professional proof-reader for a few weeks, then final proofing.

Afternoons, assuming I've hit my writing/editing goals for the day and don't have a looming deadline, are for administration and marketing. I devote more time to this than other authors because of the small press. For me as an author, this includes things like this blog, advertising campaigns, organizing finances, putting together newsletters, Facebook posts, etc. For my own writing, this isn't more than an hour a day. The rest of my time is spent doing activities for my small press (and there are a literally endless amount of activities I could be doing).

I usually finish up my day at 4:30pm and switch into family mode. I do most of the cooking and beer drinking in the house. In the evening, I stay focused on the kids until we put them to bed, then stay focused on spending time with the wife until we go to bed. At this stage in our life, we rarely go out and party (do you know what babysitters charge these days!?!)

On the weekends, I keep most Saturdays free of work, but I put in 2-3 hours every Sunday. I also will work an evening every two weeks or so.

I could do this anywhere in the world, but we have 3 kids - 7 months to 5 years old - so we're not going on a lot of super exotic trips these days. In the old day job, I was traveling internationally 25% of the year, and that was simply too much with an infant at home. I'm slowly getting back into the saddle though, and have 5 business trips, and about the same number of personal trips scheduled in 2018. I'll share photos on my Facebook, if you're into that kind of thing.

So, is being a full-time writer all it's cracked up to be? Yeah, it is. It's incredible. But when people ask why I'm not writing this on a beach in Costa Rica, I tell them I'm still a parent, and that's one job I'm never getting out of.


Art Contest!

I've previously announced this in my Newsletter and on Facebook, but I thought I'd better throw it up here too (sorry, I am terrible about remembering to update this blog). If you want to see opportunities like this first, sign up for the Newsletter!

Sigil Drawing Contest:
Hosting a little art contest this month. It's really easy. All you have to do is draw your concept of the blademaster sigil from the Benjamin Ashwood books and mail it to me: ac@accobble.com

The blademaster sigil is the one all the best blademasters have on their swords, if you forgot. Cool design is more important than artistic merits. I'm going to make my kids do one, and their preferred medium is crayon on printer paper. At the end of the month, I'll choose my favorite design and select a winner. I'll post some of the best submissions so everyone can see.

Grand Prize - signed copies of the first 4 books in the series and... wait for it... you get to name a character in an upcoming book!!!

You could name it after yourself, which I recommend, or pick something else. If my kids win, Ben is going to have to battle Blooddeath McPoopyface. Don't let that happen.

*I reserve the right to post any of the art in my newsletter, on my website, or on social media. If it is so good that I want to include it in the books, sell it, put it on a t-shirt, I will contact you and negotiate a commercial license.

Let me see what you've got!


Empty Horizon on Audio

In my last post, I forgot to mention that Empty Horizon had released. I'm doing a little better this time. Empty Horizon audiobook is out TODAY! I've linked to Amazon since that is where most of you will get it, but it's available at all major online retailers. I noticed that on the new Google Play audiobook store it's on sale for $14.99 (all of my books are on sale). That promotion will run for a limited time only while the store ramps up, so go grab it soon if you're interested.

Empty Horizon

This is kind of embarrassing, but I forgot to mention that Empty Horizon is live now...

Glad we're past that. For those who are interested in this kind of thing, the debut went well. It topped out at #200 in the overall Amazon Kindle store and reached, I believe, #3 in Swords & Sorcery and about #10 in Epic Fantasy. I was nervous, because it released shortly after Brandon Sanderson, Jeff Wheeler, and on the same day as Nora Robert's new Epic Fantasy. Poor timing, but it worked out Ok and I made my release goals.

I've finished up the outlines for Book 5&6 and I started writing Book 5 today. It's shaping up to be a bit longer than the others, and pretty action packed. Expect it 2018.

Happy reading!



Empty Horizon: Benjamin Ashwood Book 4 Pre-Order

2 blog posts in a week, something must be happening!

Empty Horizon: Benjamin Ashwood Book 4 is just two weeks away. Already, the eBook is up for pre-order and 1,600 people have purchased it. Have you?

Only 3 people - including me - will have seen this book prior to its December 5th release. Time to go click that link if you want to be next in line.

In Book 4, the stakes increase, and Ben has to scramble to prevent complete disaster. He gains new allies, and loses some as well. We see more magic in this book, and get a few clues about ancient conflicts that have been building for centuries. There is a lot of action throughout the book, and a little bit of humor (I think it's funny at least). Toward the end, we round the corner and setup the last few stages of this epic series. If you liked the first three books, then you're certain to like this one. I hope at the end you feel satisfied, and eager to find out how the whole thing ends.

December 5th!

Mark it on your calendar. The eBook goes live, it will be available through Kindle Unlimited, and I should get the paperbacks out within a day. The audiobook requires a bit more production and scheduling with the narrator, so it will be a little delayed, but don't worry, it's coming soon.

Happy reading,


3 Questions

In my monthly newsletter, I started a new section called 3 Questions. This is a short format interview I'm conducting with fellow authors. We're talking about books that I've read, and questions I want to know the answers to. If that sounds interesting, you can sign up for the newsletter HERE. Feel free to contact me and let me know if there are any authors you'd like to hear from (fair warning, Patrick Rothfuss won't tell me when his next book is coming out either).

The December edition will include 3 Questions with Duncan M Hamilton. November was with Alec Hutson, see it below:

"This month, we’re talking to Alec Hutson, author of The Crimson Queen. CQ was Alec’s debut novel and one of the Top 5 Epic Fantasy debuts in 2016 (guess who else is on that list?). It was also the Judge’s Favorite in the 2016 Ink and Insights competition and was a 2017 Reader’s Favorite for Epic Fantasy. If you haven’t read it, click here to check it out on Amazon.

Q1: What fantasy books and worlds have inspired you?

AH: When I was very young, I lost myself in The Wizard of Eathsea, The Chronciles of Prydain, and the old Forgotten Realms novels. I read Game of Thrones when it was released in 1996, and it completely changed my sense of what fantasy could be. Later, New Weird authors like China Mieville, KJ Bishop, and M. John Harrison were hugely influential. For worlds, Westeros, certainly. Faerun. Krynn. Bas Lag.

Q2: After finishing Crimson Queen, I couldn’t wait to dive into the next book and learn more about the world. Can you give us a sneak peek of where the story will go and when to expect it?

AH: The next book will be Shadow King, and I expect to have it ready to go sometime this Spring. Most of it is already written, but I’m going to make sure I’m completely happy with everything before I usher it out into the world. The story will follow three main POV threads – Keilan, Demian / Alyanna, and Cho Lin. The first three characters will be familiar to readers of Queen, and Cho Lin was introduced in a story in my short story collection The Manticore’s Soiree. She’s the daughter of the Shan demon hunter who was tasked with recapturing the Chosen in The Crimson Queen. That duty now falls to her. 

I have the story arc for the three books in The Raveling trilogy all set. Readers will get to wander around fairly widely, with extended stops in The Empire of Swords and Flowers and the Frostlands. I may write further books in Araen, as I do enjoy the world and I think there’s plenty more to explore.

Q3: How did you get into writing?

AH: My aunt owns a very large and excellent independent bookstore in Newburyport, Massachusetts. I grew up among the shelves and worked there when I was younger. I read voraciously as a child and my lifelong dream has been to instill the same sense of wonder in others that I enjoyed.

Bonus Material: Alec Hutson lives in Shanghai China, loves ultimate Frisbee, and the first chapter of CQ was written after exploring the ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia."

Houston Writers Guild - Indiepalooza

I spent last weekend at the Houston Writers Guild's Indiepalooza conference. It was a 3-day event that focused on topics relevant to Independent / Self-published authors. Topics like; motivation, craft, how to self-publish, marketing, audiobooks, copyright law, trademark law, and more. It was great to get out and meet other Houston area residents in the business.

It also reminded me about how difficult it is to get started in this business. There were a lot of people there who had complete / near complete manuscripts and they simply didn't know what to do next. They knew querying agents was a frustrating process, and they were intimidated by what goes into successfully self-publishing. The end result was that a lot of the folks there were hobbyists and hadn't made the effort to turn it into more. They love writing, but they haven't been able to get over the wall to make it a business. When people realized I write full-time, they had A LOT of questions for me. I thought I'd answer a few of them here.

Q: What's it like to write full-time?

A: Exactly as awesome as you think it would be.

Q: (following a very lengthy session from an editor trying to drum up his business by explaining how complicated the editing process is) Do you do all of that?

A: No, I don't. My writing is told from one point of view, and my story is linear. I write from A to Z. It helps me maintain flow. Basically, I start with a 2-3 page outline that has bullet points with all of the major events in the story. From there, I start writing. There are deviations from the outline, of course, but for the most part, I'm just filling in the blanks between story milestones. I write the entire 1st draft without going back and tinkering. After that, I do about 2 read/rewrite drafts where again, I work from A to Z. Then 2 to 3 copy edit drafts after that. When it's relatively clean, I send it to a professional proof-reader. When I get it back from her, I will go over it at least twice more before I upload and hit publish. The workload is roughly 50% 1st draft, 25% read/rewrite, 20% copy edit, 5% proof-read. Not included, I spent years thinking about my characters in my free time. Thinking about the world, imagining different scenes and how characters would react, etc. One 10hr plane flight for the outlines. Total process time is 6 months for Books 2-4.

Q: Do you hate Amazon?

A: No, I love Amazon. Amazon is the largest book retailer in the world and the friendliest place I have come across for Indie authors. Bookstores hate Amazon because they can't compete. Traditional Publishers hate Amazon because Amazon is single-handedly pushing down the price of books. Amazon leveled the playing field where Indies and Small Press can now compete effectively against the Big 5 Publishers. I was shocked to hear how many people in the business took a negative view of Amazon. My advice to people was, feel however you want about Amazon, but understand they are By Far the largest retailer. Do you want to sell books, or not? One group I do feel bad for, independent bookstore owners.

Q: Traditional or self-publish - aka - what the hell should I do?

A: That depends on you. With self-publishing, you earn the highest royalties for your work. You have complete creative control, and you can respond instantly when the market changes. For me, it's also fun, but I still consider myself more of a business guy than a writer. You can absolutely make a very good career out of self-publishing. BUT, self-publishing is an enormous amount of work. If you want to be a writer simply so you can write and not worry about anything else, then you shouldn't self-publish. Over half of time my is devoted to the business side of things and marketing. If you don't put in that time, you'll fail.

I will write another blog about Traditional publishing and cover things in more detail, but real quick, traditional publishing means the publisher pays you to license your work. They pay you. Let me say it again, they pay you. If they ask you to pay them, that is a vanity press. You will never be a commercial success doing that (their model is collecting fees from you, not collecting dollars from sales).

As I said, more to come on this topic. It's something I'm getting pretty passionate about because * sales plug time * I'm starting a traditional small press. If you write fantasy fiction, then it may be a good option for your book. Come check me out at cobblepublishing.com. There are many paths up the mountain, and you have to find the right one for you. If you've got that book, and now you're stuck, reach out and I'll have an honest discussion with you about which path is right for you.

Any other questions that I didn't answer above, please feel free to use the contact page. I always like interacting with readers and I love talking about this business.

Happy reading!



I'm getting my newsletter under control. From now on, I'll send it once a month. I'll include information like new releases that I've been watching, inside tidbits from fellow authors, updates on my publishing schedule, and best of all, short stories set in the world of Benjamin Ashwood. These stories will feature other characters and will intersect with Ben's story in funny/insightful ways. The first one, which will go out at midnight tonight, will feature Lady Towaal following the Blood Bay war.

I'm pretty excited about these short stories because they give me a chance to write from another point of view. I've got a lot of fun ideas about what I can do as well as some interesting tidbits I plan to drop in. Since the main story is told from Ben's perspective, I only include what he would know. With the short stories, I can say what other people know, and now you can too!

If you haven't signed up, you can find the newsletter here.

Happy reading!


Coffee Shops

This post is kind of pointless. Sorry about that.

As many of you know, I recently quit my day job and began writing full time. It is exactly as awesome as you think it is. I cannot believe how lucky I am to be doing this for a living. Last night, my wife told me that she also cannot believe how lucky I am... Hmm.

There is one disappointing thing though, coffee shops. When I turned in my resignation and thought about what my future would be like, I pictured myself pounding away at my keyboard, ensconced at the back of some ancient structure, sitting on a comfortable, well-worn chair, cats all around me. Baristas, all hoping to be artists or writers themselves one day, would idolize me. They'd bring me steaming cups of fresh-pressed, free trade, single origin coffee. They'd ask me what else they could get me, and I'd ask for a scone.

Ideally, the place would be situated on the banks of the Seine, the canals of Amsterdam, or overlooking some thousand year-old castle in the Irish countryside. I have kids though, so that wasn't going to happen. I was willing to settle for a spot deep in the suburbs of Houston, likely tucked between the nail salon and the dentist. Work with what you've got, right?

It turns out, I hate working in coffee shops.

People are always coming and going, the music is never right, the chairs are metal and stab into your back, you can't leave your seat for fear it will be taken when you get back, or if you try and save it, your laptop will be missing. Napping is frowned upon. The coffee is the same drip I can make at home, and if you want something more extravagant, it takes forever or it shows up cold, and still costs $5 a cup. They won't offer you a scone unless you wait in line for ten minutes, and they don't give a shit you're working on self-publishing an eBook. Their little brother does that too, but their mom is pressing them to get the kid a job at the coffee shop, so he can move out of the basement. Down in my area, the places are also all packed full of yoga pant wearing soccer moms, and worse, if you go at the wrong time of day, they have their kids with them! My wife actually 'called' one of the coffee shops near us yesterday. She and her yoga pant wearing friends were meeting there, and I was not allowed. Where are my fellow artists!?

Don't fret. I have a solution.

As far as I know, Hemmingway did all of his best writing in bars. I won't ask how he got his typewriter in there. If it's good enough for him, it's more than good enough for me. I'm doing some location scouting in my area to find the best spot. I can expense that, right? I'll just tell the IRS it's, uh, like my office. So, it's entirely possible that Empty Horizon: Benjamin Ashwood Book 4 will be my Old Man and the Sea. Excuse the grammatical errors, it was partially edited in a bar.