Stalemate: Clockwerk Thriller Book One

My small press Cobble Publishing has a new title out today! Stalemate: Clockwerk Thriller Book One is author Thomas Webb's debut, and boy is it a good one. A steampunk alternate history set around the American Civil War, this book has it all. Airships, heroic soldiers, spies, a beautiful assassin, gun battles, political intrigue, and more! Seriously, it's non-stop action and a ton of fun.

Follow the link HERE to find the book on Amazon. Click the cover to Look Inside or go ahead and one-click to purchase (you won't regret it). Free in Kindle Unlimited, eBook on Amazon, print on most major online retailers.

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Word Counts

Good news! Burning Tower: Benjamin Ashwood Book 5 is off at the proofreader. I should get it back in a few weeks, then I'll give a final check to make sure I haven't accidentally created even more typos, then we're on track for the June 5th release!

This one's a bit meatier than the previous books, but the page count isn't significantly higher. It's because I've got denser paragraphs, which wasn't really intentional, but it disguises the length. Anyway, I thought it'd be fun to show long long each book really is, as an author determines these things. We use word counts because everything else can be manipulated. Here are mine:

Benjamin Ashwood - 118,000

Endless Flight - 119,000

Dark Territory - 118,000

Empty Horizon - 114,500

Burning Tower (draft) - 123,800

Happy reading!


Be Comfortable With Yourself

I've seen a lot of stuff coming out recently from traditionally published authors that are really Debbie Downer pieces. These folks aren't happy with themselves... I'm picking up that there are an awfully lot of them who are putting on a face for the world, and it's eating away at them. I wonder how many others do the same? This seems to be a particular affliction of Fantasy and SciFi authors, and I'm guessing it's because they still are a little bit ashamed of their interests. They're nerds, and even though they're hugely successful nerds, they still want to keep some distance from themselves and that identity.

I'm a nerd too, in case you didn't guess that from the fact that I write Fantasy books. When I was younger, I played D&D, my friends and I brought Magic: The Gathering cards to school, on the weekends, we'd pack up our desktop computers, and all go to someone's house for LAN parties - basically every weekend. We literally couldn't be nerdier if we tried. We didn't do well in sports (I did track to get sports credit in high school. High jump, dead last in literally every single meet). We didn't have a lot of success with the ladies, and we didn't go to the cool parties. We didn't care though, because we went to OUR parties. Those were the ones we wanted to be at, because that's what we enjoyed, and we owned it. We didn't hide, and that made the difference. I'll admit, I benefited from a good group of friends who reveled in nerdy-ness just like I did, so my journey was easier, but I think that's the missing piece that triggered the Debbie Downer authors I started talking about. Even today, after having incredible success, they still don't OWN it.

Want to know the secret to being cool? Be yourself, and don't care what anyone else thinks about it. Walk your own road, and that my friends, is cool.

That's it, that's all you need to know. That's how you get to be 'cool'. Jocks like sports, they're good at them, and they don't care who knows. If you like D&D, be good at it, and don't give a shit who knows. Don't hide it. OWN it. Worried someone will make fun of you because you're a nerd? Who cares, you're doing what you want to be doing, and someone pointing that out only cements the fact that you're walking your own road. When someone says "Hey Nerd, you like Fantasy!", you respond, "Yeah, I do, it's awesome. Did you catch the last season of Game of Thrones? More people watched that than your average NFL game last year... If you watched it and liked it, let me tell you which book series is going to be the next smash hit on HBO." (Benjamin Ashwood, pleeeease let it be Benjamin Ashwood). My point, own your interest, take the conversation right back to them.

I'm fortunate that I learned this early in life, and I'll admit, I was in a community where it was easier than others. But, owning that nerdy-ness has changed my life.

Instead of playing the normal sports, my friends and I started a (somewhat joking) bowling team. We didn't have anyone to play against but each other, but 20 years later, there is an actual high-school league formed from the ashes of what we did. In high-school, I ran for President of the Student Government, made it funny and true to my personality, while my competition - the pretty, popular girl - was incredibly serious. I won. I married a former cheerleader who'd never read a fantasy book in her life, when we were dating, she thought it was funny that I did. I convinced her to watch Game of Thrones and she loved it. She didn't mind me tooling around with a fantasy book as a hobby, because from the first date, she knew I was a nerd. When I published that book, we told her yoga pant-wearing, luxury suv-driving, soccer mom friends. They didn't read fantasy books either, but they tried mine, and found out they love fantasy books. They're reading books I'm publishing from other authors now too, and messaging me about them at 11 o'clock at night. They're husbands, who also didn't read fantasy, are into mine. Some of those guys were named and brutally killed in mine... They tell others. So many people have been told now that I WRITE FANTASY BOOKS FULL TIME.

You can't get much nerdier than that. We have friends who are accountants, plastic surgeons, in oil and gas, run hedge funds, work for huge banks, do sales for projects worth tens of millions of dollars, more people in oil and gas (hey, Houston), and guess what? At cocktail parties and back-yard bbq's, everyone asks about what it's like to write fantasy books full time. They ask me what they should read next, what they should watch, what I think of whatever... They want to know about FANTASY stories.

Tonight, I'm meeting with some of my old co-workers. These guys are from all over Europe and their job, like my old job, involves traveling the world. They work for one of the 5 largest companies on the planet supporting international oil trading. They travel in style. Business class airfare, 5-star hotels, ridiculous expense accounts (not buying drinks tonight!). But guess what, after they tell me about their last trip to that bar in Singapore/India/Manila/Krakow/Rotterdam/Hamburg/London that we went to last year, they'll tell me how jealous they are that I write FANTASY books.

This post sounds braggy, and I apologize for that. My point is that all this cool stuff is only cool because I OWNED it. I'm an unapologetic nerd, and that's what has gotten me to where I am. There's no shame in being a nerd, for liking fantasy, for making elves or dragons a central piece of your life. There's no shame in whatever other interests you have. The only shame is what you keep inside. Whatever you're into, put it out there, own who you are, and amazing things are possible.

Small Press Publishing - New Release!

I've mentioned on other platforms that I've started a small press to publish science fiction and fantasy. My goal is to help connect readers with amazing stories that otherwise would not get the attention they deserve. If you're interested in what that journey is like, or have a submission, head over to the website here:

Today, I'm pleased to announce that we have our first release of a title that wasn't written by me! Tanya Schofield's young adult fantasy adventure, Awaken: Melody's Song Book 1 is live. Early feedback has been great. While I didn't write this thing, and my name isn't on the cover, I put blood and sweat into editing and publishing it. I'm incredibly excited to see how this book does, and I love that I've helped get another author's art out into the world.

If you like young adult fantasy adventure with mature themes, check out Awaken today!

Phil Tucker's Advice

Phil Tucker, author of The Chronicles of the Black Gate (it's great, try it), has a pretty similar story to mine. He'd written a few books prior to Black Gate, but that series is the one that really took off for him. It came out right around the time Benjamin Ashwood did. I saw he has a great blog post up today with some advice for people getting into the self-published author game. It's the kind of post I tell myself I will write, but, at least for today, it's easier to just steer you to Phil.

Check out what he has to say HERE.

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:

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!