Friday, December 31, 2010

Authors can buy my books (real books) there now

I just published the first three Sexton Chronicles: Sexton, Sexton Spice, and Storm Clouds Over Sexton as paperback books at Authors Den. Authors Den only charges for printing and that lets me charge a little less for the authors den versions of the books than Lulu. Now there are three places you can by my books: Authors Den, Lulu, and Amazon. 

All things being equal, I'd rather you buy them from Lulu or Authors Den. Amazon charges the same price as Lulu, but I make significantly less from Amazon purchases and I get paid (the significantly less) three months after you make the purchase. It could be up to six months depending on when you buy from Amazon, but Lulu is kind enough to pay based on a promise from Amazon. (That only adds to the credibility of Lulu, in my humble opinion.)

I found the process of publishing real books on Authors Den to be a little clunky. I had to try several times to get the covers to look the way I want them to look. I got there eventually, but it wasn't easier. They're new to the game. I assume it will get better with time.

And I really like the covers. Take a look!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Trying to follow my own advice, and it's not easy

"Give it time."

It seems like I've said that a lot lately, especially when talking to myself. In spite of self-publishing 6 books this year, I still look at my sales reports from Lulu, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble's Pubit, and Amazon's Kindle sites on a daily basis. Don't get me wrong, I'm never discouraged by what I see there. I cheer every sale. I've had enough goals in my personal and professional lives to know that goals, big goals and little goals, are achieved a piece at a time. Small forward progress adds up.

I set up a Google alert. If "David J. Steele" appears on the internet, Google tells me about it. It's kind of cool. It's also good to know I'm not the only David J. Steele in the world--and I get to keep an eye on those other guys. (Insert wink here.)

"Give it time."

Today I saw that my name and "Storm Clouds Over Sexton" appeared on someone's blog. I've never heard of the individual. I investigated. To my delight, I see that her blog has an advertisement placed there by Smashwords for the third book in the Sexton Chronicles series. I'm excited. Smashwords pays me a royalty for each of my ebooks they sell, and apparently if someone buys my book from an ad placed by Smashwords, they'll receive a portion of the price and I'll get my royalty.

In other news, Authors Den, a promotion site for ebooks and self-published books has launched a print on demand service. I tried to publish my books on it, and after a frustrating day have decided to let them develop their program a little more before I try it again. The server was unreliable and I didn't like the cover program. So...if you should happen to look there and see a Sexton book--the one with the blurb that says "don't buy this"--take my advice: don't buy it. *Authorsden doesn't seem to give the author the power to delete a published work. Having said that...if you buy the book I retitled "123" with the blurb on the back that says "Don't buy this"--you'll get a copy of Sexton.

Shoot--I might have just sold copies of this by having a blurb on the back that says "Don't buy this." We'll call it reverse-marketing.

Have a great night. I'm going to do something productive today--like write another chapter in Sexton Sand.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Merry Christmas...

Merry Christmas to you from Michigan, USA. It's dark and cold outside, but inside it is cheery and warm.

It's a special Christmas for me. You see, I get to give my parents copies of my books. I've been buying them one at a time for the past several months. As I mentioned earlier, I get them at a discount but not for free (which is as it should be because books cost money to product.)

The other night I autographed each copy--yes, in my own lousy handwriting--and will delight in giving the books. I hope they read them and enjoy them, but I know they'll enjoy holding a book in their hands that I wrote.

Now that I have purchased each of the first three Sexton Chronicles books for them: Sexton, Sexton Spice, and Storm Clouds Over Sexton, maybe I can stop being my own best customer.

I promised I would release book 4--Sexton Sand--by the end of January, and that is what I'm going to do. Call it a goal, call it ambition, call it drive, or call it a kick in the seat of the pants by grimy smelly old Ralph the makes little difference.

Merry Christmas! My favorite pastor (I've known many in spite of my lack of regular church attendance) always used to end the late Christmas Eve service by saying: "It is the day."

Indeed, as I write this... It is the day!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ralph the Muse is a fabrication...or is he?

I like to play with the image of Ralph the Muse. Before you place the phone call for the guys with the white jackets that tie in the back to come get me, let me be clear: I'm pretty sure there is no Ralph the Muse. The ancient Greeks liked the idea of muses as a source of artistic inspiration. It seemed a reasonable idea: that there would be immortals responsible for placing creative thought in the minds of men. They're usually portrayed as beautiful women.

If I had a muse, it wouldn't be a beautiful woman. My muse is a guy named Ralph. Ralph is about six foot nine, has brown hair and a beard matted with whatever he ate three days ago, and wears a stained, dingy white robe. He keeps a stringless tennis racket handy and beats me over the head with it to pass ideas through this thick skull of mine.

Old Ralph has been silent lately. He's been sulking in my rocking chair, farting occasionally just to let me know he's still around. I've been working...promoting the books, publishing books, and busy with other things. Oh, I've tried to write more chapters in Sexton Sand, and let Ralph whap me with an idea for a new series (one that I haven't yet begun to write.)

Last night, Ralph had Had Enough. He rose from the chair, snuck up on creaky sandals, and hit me hard enough that my eyeballs switched places. In 10 minutes, I outlined 3 chapters of Sexton Sand. 

And now I'm ready...just as soon as the big guys gets back to his chair.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A book just for me, and some close friends

One of the things I like about is that it allows people like me to order a book and have it be available only to me. I did that today with my first novel manuscript, a winding, twisty, filled with way too many subplots, and too much blood and death. That manuscript has been kicking around for 25 years now.

I always dreamed of seeing Return to Sexton in print. I know it's not a great novel. In fact, I think it's pretty bad. It is, however, important to me precisely because it's the first novel manuscript I ever wrote.

Return to Sexton takes place long after Tom, John, and Andy return to this world. That's part of the the Sexton Chronicles, the guys have shown little or no desire to return to this world. I'm going to keep it that way--though they might change my mind. If you write, you know what I mean by that...

Today I took advantage of lulu's private publishing capabilities. I formatted the manuscript the way I wanted, designed a cover I like, and uploaded it. Lulu also offers me the ability to revise, upload, and buy as many of this private book as I like.

So here's the deal... I am going to order a few copies. Probably less than 10. One will go to my good friend Jeffrey Miller (and if you haven't read his ought to. They're linked to this page). One will be mine. One will go to a third friend. I haven't decided which friend, but I'll pick one.

Each copy will be individually numbered. If you want one, you can ask. I might or might not sell it to you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I could resist no more... I fired the fountain pen.

I don't mean I fired it the way a boss fires an employee. What I mean is that I weaponized it.

   Just like the old Three Stooges bit, I unscrewed the pen. I had recently filled it. I slid the plunger mechanism forward.

   Yeah, boy howdy! A fine stream of black ink shot out. There was a lot more ink in that pen than I thought. I'm glad I aimed it at a piece of paper on a typing stand two feet away.

   I am sorry to report, however, that the above is all I have to report.

   When I improve my distance and accuracy, I'll let you know!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A new series--coming soon

His name is Nick Galizzi, and he's from no place in particular. Not any more. Born in war-torn Italy during World War II, he saw a rough side of life no child should see. He sought escape and found it in a way few do--an exit to another world, a world called Sexton.

Magic he studied, magic he learned...and after years he couldn't count, years in which he grew but did not age...he returned to this world. A wizard. An American.

There is more magic here than we know...and it is not all good. Nick fights to protect us.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Uh-oh, I might've messed somebody up

Clearing my throat with a touch of discomfort:

I can see by my blog statistics report that someone--probably a diligent person who believes what they read on the internet--searched for...

"Christmas tree decorating"...probably looking for tips and pointers, etc.

I hope they'll accept my apologies. Their search landed them on my blog entry. You know the one. The one I used to describe how I toss ornaments at the tree?

Uh-oh. I'll probably have to pay a fine to karma for this one...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

As a writer I can control only one thing...

...the writing

  My wife keeps the checkbook and pays all the bills. (Don't be jealous. Trust me. It's better that way. She's got the mathematical mind, and I'm good with words. That means I can usually talk my way out of overdraft fees...if I was allowed to make withdrawals, which I'm not...

Where was I? Oh yeah. Writing. Lately I've been spending more time publishing my work and promoting them. I can't stop the promoting. I'm a self-published author of 5 books. If I don't promote them, they won't get promoted. You nodded. I saw you. Actually, it's only part of the truth. Although I can't stop marketing the books, word of mouth will be the true seller of my stuff.

My wife and I just had a discussion about royalties. I have a couple of bucks coming in now, and she--as the bill payer--expects to treat royalties like any other income. She wants to pay bills with them. You know: credit card debt, mortgage, savings account, etc.

I'm the spender. My gut tells me that royalty money should be hallowed...and spent...on fun stuff.

She's right. I'm not right.

The answer is...I need to make sure I'm generating more revenue than bills. 

That leads us back to my original premise: I can control what I write, when I write, and how much I write. For the past 4 years I have written a minimum of 1,500 new words a day on average. That changed to 1,500 new words a month back in August when I published my first book as a Kindle book. Now I have 5 books generating revenue, and I anticipate the revenue will grow slowly. But lately it seems I'm spending more time trying to generate word of mouth for the books than I am writing.

That's the part that has to change. I need to let the existing books toddle about all by themselves for a while, generating word of mouth sales, and I need to keep my ass in the chair and my head in Sexton.

Tomorrow, my goal is to write 3,000 new words in Sexton Sand, and I'm going to let nothing stop me.

I can be quite disciplined when I want to be, even against odds. I beat childhood epilepsy, kicked Wernickes in the nads, and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout before my 14th birthday. I think I can keep my ass in the chair and my head in Sexton easier than I did any of those other things.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Why I don't write from notes

Here are my notes (thought I'd try to write from notes) for Chapter 63 of Sexton Sand:

Sexton Sand

    Benecala in the chamber under Balfour. He doesn't care what's going on above.

    Steps over some bodies /w muskets & thinks briefly about the connection to earth, and his Amercian friends.

Sees the chamber--the...

What's there?

See? I won't know until I write it, much like you won't know until you read it. Ah! The writing life I love.

Autograph your book? Can I? Really? Me? Heck yeah!

I hope I never forget what an honor it is to be asked to autograph someone's copy of one of my books. I saw a kid get rebuffed by a pro golfer once, and I promise I won't do that to someone. It's a very small chance I'll ever be overwhelmed with requests for me to sign a book, but should there ever be a high demand for my signature on books, I'll meet the demand.

    Tonight I left work and the driver of the shuttle that carries us to our cars was waiting. He was reading a book while he waited. When I got on, he handed me the book and a pen and said, "I'd like you to autograph this for me."

   What a thrill! Probably a bigger thrill for me than it was for him, but I don't know. I can tell you I was tickled pink (it's an expression...don't get excited!) to sign his book. He told me a couple of weeks ago he was going to order it, but I'm a count your chickens when they're frying in oil kind of guy. He also told me I was going to autograph it when he got it...but again, that chicken wasn't out of the coop, let alone in any oil.

   Tonight, on a dark bus, at 11 PM, a dark bus leaving a chicken restaurant...he asked for and got my autograph.

   I'll call that a good night. Want to know what makes it a great night? ...He was already 1/3 of the way through the book. Now that's a compliment.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Decorating the Christmas tree--Steele style

I used to hate decorating the Christmas tree. That was before I learned to turn it into a game. I've been doing it for a couple of years now, and it only gets better.
When I was a kid, full of holiday spirit and dying to help decorate the tree, my mother would guide my small hands. My little brother and I would place the ornaments with care...and she would re-arrange them when we went to bed.
No more of that! Ha!
Now I volunteer to decorate. I stand on the far side of the room and toss the ornaments onto the tree. If they land and stick...they get to stay. If they bounce, they get one more shot at tree fame, or it's back in the box with however many pieces I can find.
If I start having a high success rate, I raise the bar. Then I start tossing them through the ceiling fan (I increase fan speed as I raise the stakes still higher) and see if I can get a good bounce and still land the ornament on a piece of the fir.
Moral of the story? Well...if you'd like to send me an ornament, I'll be glad to put it on our tree...or toward our tree, or through...and maybe even on top!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Question 3 from the local paper (Vassar, MI Pioneer Times) asked and answered:

Q: I did read your brief bio on your blog, but I was hoping you could tell me a little more in depth about yourself. Where are you originally from? What brought you to Vassar? Have you always been interested in writing? Family?

 I'm originally from Kalamazoo. I was an executive with the Boy Scouts and served this area from 1988-1991. I loved Vassar from the first time I saw it: the people I met were great, I like the look and feel of the town, and the proximity to Saginaw and Flint.
 I met my wife—who is from here and teaches at the high school—when we served on camp staff together. We lived in Midland when we were first married, then moved to the Chicago area, then Wisconsin, then Ohio with my job with the Boy Scouts. When I got ill in 2005 (the illness I describe in the book Green Goblin) and decided to leave the Boy Scouts to pursue a writing career, it seemed only fair and natural to move back to Tanya's hometown. I'm glad we did. I love it here!
   I have always been interested in writing. I wrote my first short story in third grade, and I've been writing ever since. I didn't think much of it, and actually thought I wasn't very good at it. In high school I competed and won trophies in the children's storytelling section of forensics tournaments and took second place in the state using a children's story I wrote. I still didn't think I was very good at writing.
   In college I was toying with a novel manuscript—I can't remember the premise or anything about it—and tossed the draft into a wastebasket in the student union. The director of the Reagan Scholarship fished it out of the wastebasket. He was impressed and set up my mentorship with Terry Brooks, Stephen R. Donaldson, and Clive Cussler. All three of those authors told me I could write...and I believed them. I'm very grateful for their encouragement.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My first speech in 5 years...

...Felt like I hadn't skipped a beat. The strange thing--and this has happened to me several times in the past--I don't remember what I said! I didn't go over the allotted time, or screw up the speech. The audience was receptive and asked several very good questions. My Mom and Dad were in the audience, which was really cool and the first time that had happened since my Eagle Scout Court of Honor in 1979. They've seen me in plays, but speeches are a different beast.

I had an opportunity to speak to the Kiwanis Club of Kalamazoo (great organization, Kiwanis--I was a member for 15 years and loved it) today. It made for a long day. Three hours of driving to get there, an hour and a half for the meeting, 25 minutes behind the podium, and 3 hours back. Worth every minute.

There's a speaker's high that comes when you're in the groove. The audience was very receptive. The questions were very good... Maybe some of the folks there will buy my books. I hope so, but even if they don't it was worth the effort to make the speech. I have a feeling I'll talk about my books at any and every opportunity.

I do remember they seemed impressed when I said (the only thing I really remember saying), "I was unhappy with my profession and my wife offered to support me if I wanted to leave the profession, take a part-time job, and write books. Shortly after that, I fell seriously ill and spent some time in the neural intensive care unit, quit my job, took a part time job cleaning toilets in the middle of the night, and started writing books."

It sounds like the actions of a madman when I hear myself say it. Maybe it is. I don't know. I don't care much, really, if it sounds like the actions of a madman. I will tell you this: I'm glad I did.

And--I almost forgot--they gave me a pen. A very cool pen with a Kiwanis logo on the clip. If you follow this blog at all, you know I love nice pens.

Question 2 from the local newspaper, asked and answered:

Q: When did you begin the novels? When were they published?

I wrote the first Sexton manuscript when I was still in college. My fraternity brothers got used to the sound of my typewriter at all hours of the day and night. It was a cheap electric typewriter and for some reason I still don't understand, the 'g' stopped working. It became a great exercise...writing without using a g. I still did well on term papers, but it wasn't easy. The first novel manuscript sat ignored for more than twenty years. When I looked at it after that time, I decided it should stay buried.
   The idea for the series remained. I wrote Sexton a couple of years ago.
I published Sexton, the first in the series, in July of this year. I published it as a Kindle book on Amazon's Kindle store. Self-publishing wasn't an easy decision, but I decided I had waited long enough. The economy has hit traditional publishing hard. I took it as a bad sign when I saw brand authors like Stephen King and John Grisham on talk shows like the Today Show, trying to sell their books. My thought was that if those guys are having a tough time, publishers were probably being tougher than ever in terms of accepting unsolicited manuscripts from unknown authors.
    I decided not to wait for the economy to improve before doing something with my books. My wife—a great source of encouragement and always my biggest fan—strongly suggested I do something with my work. I had a stack nearly two feet high: completed drafts of 3 novels. It was time. I published one in July, one in August, one in September, one in October, and one in November.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Question 1 from the local paper, asked and answered

Q: What inspired you to write the Sexton Chronicles series?

A: I was a Reagan Scholar at Eureka College, and as part of the scholarship the college arranged individual mentorships (one-on-one job shadowing programs) with national figures. I met with authors Terry Brooks, Stephen R. Donaldson, and Clive Cussler. Clive invited me to stay with him and his wife Barbara at their home in Colorado and provided instant and sometimes brutal critique of the material I wrote. I spent several hours in his guest room banging out stories on my portable typewriter.
   Inspiration came by accident. The stories I wrote at the time were set in a world called Sexton, but I had a bad habit of including images and thoughts for the characters that had a distinctly American tint. Clive pointed that out several times—usually by drawing a thick black line through the text I had just written.
   Finally, in exasperation, I created characters who came from America to the world of Sexton. I liked the freedom it allowed me as a writer, and Clive enjoyed the storyline.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why self publish? ...I'll tell you why I did.

I write books I and others consider entertainment: good entertainment, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-drawers adventure. Fantasy you can believe in. I self-published them.

I did it because I could. Print on demand makes it possible to publish my books without paying upfront fees, earn good royalties on sales, and have the books available to a worldwide audience. I own the copyright for every bit of fiction I've ever written.

Self-publishing has a bad reputation. I think it has a bad reputation in large part because traditional publishing houses want it to have a bad reputation. The implication--sometimes not so implied--is that if a book was any good at all, it would have an imprint from a publishing house with a Manhattan address. Self-publishing also has a bad reputation, in my opinion, because of the vulture-like speed and persistence with which places that print self-published books strike. Want to see what one of those strikes looks like? Call the 800 # or send an email to one of them and see how fast they contact you to sell you on their services. I clocked one at 10 minutes after I sent an email--and I sent the email at 11:00 PM!

There are advantages to having a publishing house publish your work. I won't kid you. If a publishing house called me tomorrow, I would give serious thought. I know that's not going to happen, and my plan involves having enough sales of self-published books to make a publisher take a serious look at my books. I'm sure there are publishing houses out there that won't touch a self-published book...but guess what. They don't need an official excuse to reject my work. I'm not going to worry about a traditional publisher rejecting my work because it's been self-published. Frankly, if they can't be confident that their house can't sell more books than I can as an individual, I sure as hell don't want to sell them my copyright.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The way I write a book...

   If you're looking for a step by step method, you're not going to find it here. I like to entertain myself with my writing. There is a lot written on this topic. If you want books on plotting, they're out there...along with books on just about every aspect of writing.

My method is to start with something in mind, but nothing concrete. At the moment, I'm working on chapter 62 of Sexton Sand. In this chapter, Andy, John, and Tom are carrying King Rajahd'een down a street in the capital of Crescens. They just finished a fight with a bunch of guys, but don't know if there are more people around who would kill them (cheerfully) and proceed with their day.

Fact is... I don't know what's going to happen next. I won't know until I finish the chapter. Given my style, I can tell you the chapter will probably be about 1,500 words long and that it will end with a mini cliffhanger. Then I'll move on to something else happening.

I think the next chapter will be about Benecala in the Fortress Balfour, looking at the thing the druids want so badly to retrieve.

Fact is... I don't know what will happen with that either.

I'll find out the way the reader (hopefully you, by the way) will find out: one word at a time.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fountain pens--they're older than you think

I bought a new fountain pen today...with royalties, which made it feel even better to buy. (Allow me to insert this for my younger friends who might have never seen a fountain pen--they're old pens, that have to be filled with liquid ink by their owners. They have funky tips and have to be handled carefully.)

I love fountain pens for a variety of reasons, but I think the biggest reason is I have a love for old technology. I did a little research on the history of fountain pens, and was quite surprised. For example, the first documented use of what has become the modern fountain pen was 1,100 years ago in Egypt in the year 953 AD. The caliph of Egypt demanded a pen with an internal ink source that could be held upside down without leaking. He got it.

Fountain pens have changed over the years: the style of nib (tip) has seen its share of tinkering, as has the reservoir. Until I got this pen today, I always used the chicken-shit method of ink delivery--a disposable cartridge--but no more, baby! The pen I bought today came with a bottle of ink and a mechanical whatsis that brings the ink into the pen and stores it.

I bought a good pen--a treat to myself. Don't ask to borrow it. The booklet it came with says the nib will wear in a way that's beneficial to me, but use by others will effect it in a negative way. Besides, it's a pricey pen...a little under fifty bucks. A royal fifty bucks, if you will.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Put it on your reading list...War Remains, by Jeffrey Miller

I wouldn't promote my books if I didn't think they're good, and I certainly wouldn't promote someone else's book in the venue I'm trying to promote my books if it wasn't damn good. War Remains, by Jeffrey Miller is an outstanding read. You'll care deeply about the characters and their story will speak to you. If you know someone, or have relatives or ancestors who dealt with war and its inevitable fallout, War Remains will speak to you.

Here's the "blurb":

More than fifty years after his paternal grandfather Robert “Bobby” Washkowiak was reported missing in action, body never recovered during the Korean War, Michael Washkowiak makes a startling discovery of what really happened to his grandfather on one of the battlefields of that forgotten war.

Available in all electronic book formats at Soon it will be in paperback and hardcover from

Friday, November 12, 2010

I wonder why they're called royalties

I've never received a lifetime award for anything and I hope I never do. I haven't lived a lifetime yet! ...How do you like that? I'm digressing before I start. That should be as impossible as receiving a lifetime achievement award while you're still alive.

I don't know why the money paid to artists for the sale of their work is called a royalty. If you know, I'd appreciate it if you would post it. I'm curious.

...But that's not really why I'm posting this tonight...

What I really want to say is that I'm delighted to report that my first ever royalty check is on its way to me. In addition to wanting to cheer out loud (which, by the way, I have done this evening), I feel like reflecting. It's long been a dream of mine to write and publish books. By publish I mean writing a book (in my case it's plural and getting plural-er by the week), getting those books for sale to the public, and receiving income from sales.

When I get that check next week from Lulu Enterprises, Inc., it will be the fruit of that dream. I really don't know how the term "royalty" came to be when it comes to paying the artist a portion of the sales price. I think it's an interesting word to use for those payments. I also think it's really cool that it is the work, not the writer, that is and will generate those royalties. If I get hit by a truck tomorrow and killed (which, btw, I aim to make sure doesn't happen), the royalties will keep coming. The books will generate income as long as people buy them.

If you're a writer and you're considering publishing, my advice to you is not to stop with eBooks. I've blogged about those before and I haven't changed my mind. It's a growing portion of publishing. For now, and for the foreseeable future, just so you know...the money is in print books. I have to sell 3 Kindle copies of Sexton to make as much as I do from one paperback copy of the same book.

I'm looking forward to getting that check. I hope it's the smallest royalty check I ever get. I'll know without remembering. Before I cash that check, I'm going to make a copy and frame it. I'll treat it like...wait for it...royalty.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Er...unintended consequences

This one caught me by surprise--a rare treat, by the way--and I laughed pretty hard at it.

I can look at stats for this blog and see how people found the page. I don't get to see who visited, but I can see from where they visited.
I started this blog by blogging about what I call the "Moby Dick Exercise", in which a man copied the book Moby Dick by hand. I copied (re-typing) several books while I was recovering from Wernickes.
So...when I saw that someone found this blog through a Google search for "Moby Dick Exercise", I was intrigued.
That's where the "Er..." comes in.

Guess what I found when I backtracked the "Moby Dick Exercise" search.
...Well... The searcher was concentrating on the second two words. Not the first two!

Monday, November 8, 2010

I think I'll give credit to brain damage

Brain damage, and credit? Brain damage is a serious matter, and I'm not making light of it. In my case--and in so many ways I am a very lucky man--brain damage has shaped my life in a good way. Do I have your attention yet?

I had grand mal seizures as a child. That was in the early 1970's, and something happened (probably as a result of those seizures) that made me use both sides of my brain for language. In 2005, I suffered an acute bout of Wernickes--which I've describe in detail in Green Goblin. In 2008, I had a neuropsyche exam--which is not a psychological test to see if a feller has his marbles or not, but a test of brain functions--that revealed I am what they call "lateralized"...meaning there is a large gap, a really large gap, between my verbal and procedural I.Q's. On the verbal side, I test high. The word descriptor was "very superior." On the procedural, or math side, I tested low. The word descriptor was "impaired."

I have loved to write since I was a little kid. I wrote for fun in junior high, I wrote for fun in high school. I didn't know I was any good at it until college...when I asked, quite honestly, for help with an English paper. Some awards for my newspaper columns, some awards from the college literary magazine, a mentorship with Clive Cussler, Stephen R. Donaldson, and Terry Brooks later, and I started to think I was a pretty decent writer.

I'm getting ready to speak to a Kiwanis club in Kalamazoo, MI later this month about my books. Until a little while ago, I didn't wasn't sure what to make the basis of my speech. I want them to buy my books. Not going to kid about that. But that doesn't make much of a speech.

Overcoming brain damage...using it to build a skill that all too few seem to possess a lot of? Well...that's a topic for a speech.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New chapter (finally!) in Sexton Sand...

Rorak shook his head and watched the Americans. “Just what do they think they're doing this time?” He saw them emerge from the kiosk carrying a man, an unconscious man judging by the way his buttocks nearly dragged on the ground while Tom and Andy carried his shoulders and John held the feet at his waist. He was still chuckling when he turned his attention away from them and looked back the way they had come. Given the ruckus from that direction, men were on the way. A lot of men. Men unamused at the sound of the explosion Andy made.

Feels good to write new material again!

Volume of volumes of Sexton

By "volume" I mean noise, and by noise, I mean throwing a lot out there in hopes of receiving return.

In a word: Huh?

I read a piece written by a guy who's name I can't remember. In it he tries to explain that it is possible to make a living writing and selling eBooks. His claim is that he makes $100,000+ selling his electronic books. Like a lot of self-help gurus, reading his stuff doesn't really spell out how he does it.

I figured out his key to success, and I'm going to emulate it. It's simple. He publishes a lot, really a lot, of stuff. Royalties grow over time, word spreads over time. Have you ever noticed that it takes years to build a good reputation? (It's the opposite of a bad reputation, especially in that bad things spread fast while good things inch along.)

So... since July, I have published 3 books in the Sexton Chronicles series, 1 true-life story of a difficult illness I overcame, and 1 anthology of short stories. I've published them as Kindle books, and Nook books, and paperback books, and hardcover epub files, and mobi files, and pdf files. Four months isn't long, but I'm not going anywhere soon.

I'm not running out of material either. Or time. 

Next up... Sexton Sand. No kidding... I promise

Friday, November 5, 2010

Depending on how you count, I now have 5 or 6 published books!

The quibbling is about Green Goblin/Bouffont Vert. One is in English, and one is in French. It doesn't make a bit of difference to me how anyone counts them.
I'm excited about my latest publication, a little book entitled Just for Fun: A Little Sexton, and Some Other Stuff. I published it kind of as a lark. I have a couple of short stories that won awards in college that have been dormant for far too long, and a partial Sexton manuscript that might be of interest to fans (if, Lord willing, I have some of those someday--you know, fantasy-loving-trivia-bugs-of-the-sort-that-think-Elvish-is-a-real-language-and-not-a-Las-Vegas-showperson-impersonator.)
What I'm really excited about in the book is my journal from Peru. I was there for 9 weeks in 1987 and it's a good story even if it is nonfiction. The cover could be a photo of the place where I almost drowned saving a guy from drowning in the Urabamba River. Peru is a lot more stable now than it was then, but it has always been a beautiful country.
You can take a look at the book if you want (and buy it!). I have a preview set up at the bottom of the page.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Picking it up again...

It's always a slightly different experience. I'm writing new stuff again, this time in Sexton Sand, book IV in the Sexton Chronicles.

I'm wondering, as I always do, what comes next. In the chapter I finished a couple of months ago, Tom, John, and Andy had knocked King Rajahd'een of Crescens senseless in an alley in the capitol city of Crescens. Have you wondered if Andy really has any skills with magic? I think I've made it ambiguous, but we see for sure in this book.

Hell no, I'm not going to tell you. I want you to buy the book and see for yourself.

I haven't been idle since writing chapter 60 back in July. I've published the first three books in paperback and hardcover, epub, kindle, and pdf. Each publishing experience brings its own opportunities to learn new things and I've enjoyed learning them. Now I know how and where to get ISBN's, and how to design covers, and write press releases... I can even make my signature look like an autograph from someone who knows how to write autographs.

But now it's time to get back to fun.

   ...Time to get back to Sexton

Friday, October 29, 2010

No more visits from France? C'mon! I like you guys!

I noticed I haven't had any visitors from France to this site since that post I placed in French. Interesting. Perhaps I should apologize for my use of the language...and I can assure you that any errors made were a combination of my errors and those of the computer translation program I used.

Reminds me of a story...

I spent 9 weeks in Peru when I was in college. One day, I ran into 4 Frenchmen on the Inca trail. We spoke French back and forth as we walked. It was an amicable conversation.

Eventually one of them looked at me and asked if I was French-Canadian. Apparently they couldn't quite place my accent. I thought I was speaking Parisean French, but evidence pointed to the contrary to their well-trained ears.

When I told them I was not only not French Canadian, I was in fact an American... They refused to speak French anymore. Not so much as a "wee". I knew why. They were willing to tolerate a Canadian accent, but couldn't stand the thought of an American butchering their language.

It would have been easy to speak only English to them. I didn't do that, of course. I was mildly offended. Instead...and feel free to grin... I continued to speak French (in a limited fashion)...but I did so with an American Southern accent.

Bone jooooure mon-eee-sewer...! I could see a rash start to form on their necks, and beads of irritated sweat pop out on their foreheads.

Je suis trez drole, n'est pas? Non? Well...sorry about that. Please. I love ya. Have a great day!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hope and care for sufferers of wernickes and korsakoffs, and a salute for those who serve them

On behalf of the patients who might not be able to express their appreciation to the staff, and on speaking as a man who had extraordinary care when I was afflicted, I say thank you. I'm attaching a link to Dukeries Health Care, in the United Kingdom. The site is full of information about the condition/conditions as well as photos of what looks to be a pleasant place. These people understand the illness. Although it is a rare illness, it is a serious one. Some might want to blame the sufferers of wernickes and korsakoffs for their condition, but I think that's the easy way out. Alcoholism is a disease. Trust me... I understand the temptation to place blame for it. God knows I struggle with self blame more than I suffered from quitting drinking... 

Take a moment, if you would be so kind, to learn a little bit about wernickes and korsakoffs. Maybe you can help prevent a friend from suffering from it, or if you know someone suffering from it, perhaps you can understand what's going on.

They were also kind enough to place a link to "Green Goblin" (my story of my fight with wernickes) on their site. I hope it can help someone, even if it's only in a small way.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Some things prove whether a person is an optimist or a pessimist

Royalty watching... In my case it has nothing to do with whether the prince is going to marry what's-her-name (she's hot, but what IS her name?) in England.

In my case Royalty watching is becoming an unhealthy thing. I want to know if any of my Kindle books, eBooks, paperback, or hardcover books have sold. It's a matter of checking websites and looking at reports.

I fall on the side of optimism every time. I'm not disappointed when the sales figures haven't changed. I look at them and enjoy the little numbers with the hope (knowledge... I'll call it faith) that I'm looking at the small figures of a career in its infancy. I believe in my books. They're good books and with time they'll grow legs and start bringing home the bacon to the guy who's working on the next book.

I think a pessimist in a similar situation would go nuts, and maybe even give up.

Not me. I'm going to do what I do, and that is write. I'm not going to sit idly by and wait for sales--there is a fair amount of marketing that has to happen--but long experience with reports and numbers tells me that staring at reports (though I do cheer when someone buys a book) won't do anything.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

En Francais...Bouffon Vert (Green Goblin)

Ce poste est pour mes amis, connus et inconnus, qui parlent le français. Dans le temps qui s'est écoulé depuis que j'ai écrit et publié en anglais Green Goblin, j'ai eu plus de visites sur ce blog de la France que des États-Unis. En conséquence, j'ai publié le Bouffon Vert en français. Si vous, mon ami, essayons d'en savoir plus sur Wernickes - si vous êtes un ami d'un malade, ou qui sont liés à un malade, je vous souhaite à tous le meilleur. Au cas où vous vous poseriez la question, je ne parle que suffisamment le français pour être en mesure de vérifier à nouveau le programme que j'ai utilisé pour traduire mon petit livre. 
  Si vous souhaitez me contacter, s'il vous plaît le faire par un commentaire sur cette entrée de blog. Je ferai de mon mieux pour répondre à toutes vos questions (s'il vous plaît, si vous le pouvez, postez votre commentaire en anglais ... et si vous ne pouvez pas, s'il vous plaît pardonnez les erreurs de traduction que je pourrais faire quand je réponds.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm excited about a couple of things...

I'll mark this first one in my calendar because it makes me happy for reasons I don't fully understand: Someone, somewhere in the United Kingdom bought Green Goblin for their Kindle. The Sexton books have been up on Amazon UK for a couple of months with no sales, and I was beginning to wonder if any of my stuff would sell on Amazon there. I guess it shouldn't surprise me that Green Goblin was my first sale in the UK. They're waaaay ahead of the US in terms of recognizing and treating Wernicke-Korsakoff disease.

I'm also excited, for different reasons, about Smashwords publishes eBooks in all formats. I uploaded all three (to date) Sexton Chronicles books as well as Green Goblin, and Smashwords converted them to epub, kindle, Sony Reader, Palm Reader, PDF, RTF, and other formats I don't remember at the moment. You can buy/download books from there and read samples there. 

The other thing Smashwords did for me is made the Sexton books easy to find with a simple Google search. The books appear with all kinds of URLs that lead to free samples, and ultimately to the books. Very, very cool.

If you have an electronic reader, take some time to check out And it won't hurt my feelings any if you buy one, or two, or four of mine while you're there!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I wrote a little book...a true story disguised as fiction

The name of the little book is Green Goblin. It's the story of a guy who got Wernickes Encephalopathy, a destructive disease of the brain brought about by abuse of alcohol. The odds of recovery and living a normal life are slim, even with great care provided by great people.

Some make it.

I made it. Green Goblin is my story. It's a short book of 64 pages. I hope to give hope through the book, not only to those suffering from Wernickes (the sufferers include family members and caregivers of those afflicted), but those going through other serious illnesses as well.

Here's a link to the book.

Green Goblin

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My author page on and other places you can buy my books

Amazon does a nice job with its author pages. My books and kindle books are in one place, and the "look inside" feature is enabled for the print books. Look Inside is a nice feature because it lets the potential buyer see the first few pages before they decide to purchase.

Click to see my author page on Amazon

If you click on the books on the right side of this page you can preview them, and if you choose to buy them from there you can link to the books at Lulu is the only place to offer the books in hardcover.

Barnes and Noble offers Sexton, Sexton Spice, and Storm Clouds Over Sexton as eBooks. Search for David J. Steele at

Have a great day! I plan to do the same.

Monday, October 11, 2010

New writing exercise

Twitter. Tweet. It's fun to tweet, and, I suppose, be a twit...

Twitter limits "tweets"--little text entries one can send to others who chose to follow him or her--to 140 characters. Not 140 words. One hundred and forty characters. That's not a lot, in case you're wondering. Especially when Twitter considers a space to be a character.

There are probably several ways to use the limit as a writing exercise. I just started yesterday, playing around.

My self-imposed mission is to make each of my tweets exactly 140 characters. I want to convey the idea I'm trying to convey (vague and weak though it might be) in 140 characters. In this little game I'm playing, I have a couple of rules:

  • No shorthand, as in "texts" via cellphone
  • Punctuation counts and must be used
  • Must convey an idea
  • Can't use multiple tweets to gain extra characters

There's no penalty if I don't make it, other than I call myself names at the computer...which means I won't try a similar exercise on YouTube. I'm doing this as an exercise, not because I have a lot of fluff in my writing--I don't. In fact, it's tighter than a rubber band on brick. I'm doing this to make sure I keep it as tight as a rubber band on a brick.

If you'd like to follow me on Twitter, you probably already know how. Just follow Misticuf. That's me.

Monday, October 4, 2010

See, stew, sit, and...there it is.

I was driving home this morning as the sun came up. The sky was orange at the horizon and changed miraculously to a band of deep blue, lightening to a pale blue glow that would minutes later, become azure with the full light of day. Clouds were vertical jags with edges growing dull with time.

I didn't plan to write about the sky, here or in any of the Sexton books. I probably will, but by then I won't remember that sunrise in particular. It was part of what I'll call my "see".

It will go into the sludge of stuff in my brain, along with conversations and observations, jokes, hopes, and pieces of cranial lint that's already there. When it comes up in the course of whatever portion of whichever book, I won't remember it.

That's how the writing process, the external part of it anyway, works for me. It doesn't matter if it's a character description, a place, a piece of dialog, or a joke. I don't mean to imply that writing isn't work for me. It is.

The best stuff that comes out is the stuff I don't think I had to think about, but stuff I did think about when I didn't think I was thinking.

If you understand the previous're probably a writer or some other kind of artist.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Let's talk about Barnes & Noble's Nook

I'm aware that these posts appear on my author's page at I get a little kick out of that fact. I like Amazon, don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to disrespect them or what they do. Let's call posts like this a little expirament. I'm an Amazon Associate. That doesn't mean much. It means that if you buy a book from Amazon through this website, I'll get a little money without it costing you a thing.

So far, I'm happy to report, Amazon owes me less than a buck. That's after 3 months. They'll pay me when they owe me a hundred bucks. I'm all a-twitter.

At the rate they're paying me, I can afford to be honest. I think Barnes & Noble's Nook (ebook reader) is a much better device than the Kindle. There's nothing wrong with the Kindle. It's light, it's easy to read, and it's fast.

I just like the Nook better. The Nook (which you can pick up and feel before you buy if you go to Barnes & Noble), feels like a book in my hands. It has a color touch screen. You can see the covers of the book you're reading. The most basic model Nook costs 10 bucks more than the most basic model Kindle, but if you buy a Nook from a Barnes & Noble store, the money you save on shipping and handling vs. Kindle makes up the difference. You can also take your Nook to a Barnes & Noble store and browse books on it before you decide to buy.

I'm going to buy one of those Nook things pretty soon.

*A little caveat... Until yesterday, I was going to buy a Kindle instead of a Nook. The reason was both selfish and simple: my books were available as Kindle books, but not as Nook books. As of yesterday, that changed.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Of anticipation...and remembering what appears where

The anticipation I feel has to do with the fact that my copy of Storm Clouds Over Sexton, the third book in the Sexton Chronicles is on a truck in Maumee, Ohio right now. I'm sure it's sitting in a box, bubble wrapped, on top of a copy of Sexton Spice bubble wrapped in its own right, waiting for a driver to show up, so it can be delivered to me. I'm feeling anticipation, not due to anxiety--because this time I took my time reviewing it online--but due to excitement.

There's nothing quite like opening a box and seeing my book inside. The book that began as a blank screen on an old computer running Windows 98 in the year 2010. I'll be able to flip through the pages, and cast a glance at the ream-and-a-half of paper with the coffee stains, red ink stains, and...truth be told...a few blots from a fountain pen desperately in need of proper cleaning. I'll grin because when I stared at that blank word processor screen I had no road map, no outline...nothing but a pile of characters and a strong desire to see Andy rescued before the whole situation with Crescens escalates to a dark war.

As far as what appears might remember my previous blog post. Someone (and by that I mean me) kind of, sort of, wasn't thinking. You see, my friend, these posts also appear on my author page on Amazon!

As the dog Astro used to say on that old cartoon, The Jetsons, "Ruh-roh, Relroy!"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lulu and Createspace

When I was looking to self-publish my manuscripts, I looked at both Createspace (which is Amazon's) and Lulu. I went with Lulu, and I'll try to explain why in simple, but nonjudgmental terms. I think I can do it one sentence:

Amazon charges, and Lulu doesn't.

Createspace advertises early on in one of the screens that it doesn't charge up front fees. That is true. One needs to read carefully... The fee isn't up front. It's there, but it's not an up front fee. You need to look at the side-by-side comparison, and you do that by clicking on a box on the right side of the screen. You'll see there are many publishing/marketing packages offered and each one contains a setup fee. It's not an upfront fee...they take it out of the first of the profits/royalties paid. That fee starts at $299.

Lulu attaches a markup to each book ordered, but there is no setup fee. (I expect no less from any publisher. It's how they can afford to stay in business and why they're in business in the first place.) With Lulu, the writer's royalties/commissions are just that: the writer's. I don't know if Createspace puts a markup on the books. Frankly, I stopped looking once I realized the first three hundred bucks was going to go to pay for something the other guys weren't going to charge me at all. I suspect there is a retail markup on Createspace books, but can't say for sure.

I didn't want to pay $299 for the privilege of publishing my manuscripts. I preferred to pay nothing at all to self-publish my books...and that's what I paid.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Glad I looked...and found I was right

I need to do press releases to the local media about my books. People won't buy what they don't know about.

I haven't done the press releases yet, even though I know they'll drive sales. The local media in these parts are very friendly and are looking for stories like: Local Dude Wrote A BOOK! I'm a local dude, and I've written three books.

I've been holding off on the press releases not because I don't know how to write them or what to include, but because few people have heard of Lulu, and might not be as willing to shop online from a source they don't know as they might be to shop from a site they're familiar with.

I did a little digging on the Lulu website and checked out their marketing guides. They want authors to purchase their marketing services, and I'm not going to do that. I know how to write press releases and follow up with phone calls to writers and editors.

I'm happy to report that the one free bit of advice lulu offers is the one I already knew. My thought was to wait until Amazon picks up the listing of at least Sexton, and maybe Sexton Spice before I launch my personal media blitz.

Lulu's marketing advice: "Wait for your books to be listed with Amazon or Barnes & Noble before purchasing a media kit."

That's my plan.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Serial style, novel format: Sexton Sand

I'm re-typing the first draft (half done) of Sexton Sand, Sexton Chronicles Vol. 4.

I try to keep my chapters to about 1,500 words--a couple of pages in length. Fast chapters, fast page-turning and hopefully seat-of-the-pants stuff. I hope it keeps you reading until you're afraid you'll hate yourself in the morning. That's the way I like my fiction.

But even I had to shake my head at myself, in a sort of blushing, grinning, impish way.

I have four chapters in a row in Sexton Sand describing a battle in a canyon. Each of those four chapters ends in a cliff-hanging sentence. Heck, I wrote them, and I'm turning the page and cussing at myself because there's no good place to stop.

I hope you're not looking for an apology for that. There isn't one coming.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Excerpt from Sexton Sand (Sexton Chronicles, Vol. 4)

    "That's the one." Tom walked to the other side of his horse and took something from the saddle on that side. He held it up for John to see. "Gunpowder." It was a powder horn. "We're going to climb that ridge, go along for a while...sing to them from a bunch of different spots...and have them chase little grenades until we're sure we can pass by safely."
   John couldn't help it. The laugh burst through his clenched teeth like a belch. "That's your plan? Get a hundred guys who would love to kill us just for breathing their air to chase us for bad singing while we toss little grenades at them?"
   Tom's face as without expression, but clear in the moonlight. "Yes. That's the plan. Got a problem with that?"   
   "Only one."
   "What's that?"
   "I've heard you sing. It's not exactly your crowning glory."
   The grin reappeared. "That's why I'll do the easy part."
   "There's an easy part?"
   Tom bent and started filling the bottles with gunpowder. "Yeah. I'll only sing the lion sleeps tonight. You handle the verses, and the awimboweys."
   He wanted to object, but it was pointless. If he refused, Tom would just do it without him. He squatted and held the bottles for Tom to fill. This is nuts, he thought, but it just might work.

I love libraries...but...

Frankly, I'm not going to make any money from my books if they're in a library collection.

I got an invitation through Lulu, to put copies of my book in a library book show that will be attended by librarians from all over the state of Michigan who are responsible for buying books for their library. I'm a new author, and I love the idea that people will be able to check my book out from the library. It's an ego boost.

...but it's not a wallet boost. Let's do some math (and I readily admit I'm not good at math). If a library buys a copy of my book, and they put the book on the shelf...and let's stretch here, an act of whimsy. Let's say someone checks the book out and really likes it. Speed reads through it and takes it back in a week. Someone else checks it out right away. A waiting list forms. By the end of the third month, let's say 100 people have read the book. Let's say a book club forms, an audience gathers, and someone with a huge theater presence reads the book aloud to 1,000 people. This is fun!

Guess how many royalties I will have made from all those people reading my book, or having it read to them.

One. One copy of the book to the royalty paid to yours truly.

Um... I think I'll take a pass at this time. I'm not going to put my book in the library show. Later, perhaps, when I can afford to be more generous. When was the last time you checked a book out of a library and liked it so much you went and bought your own copy?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writing again. Sexton Sand, the 4th book in the series

It feels good to be pounding away on the keyboard again. I'm re-typing what I have of the manuscript so I can be in the swing when I get to the fresh stuff in a day or two. I'm about 40% through the first draft.

Now that I have published copies, I'm going to accelerate the timetable. With each of the first three books, I wrote the first draft and let it sit for 9 months to a year before touching it again. I was doing that for a couple of reasons, one valid, one not. The valid reason was that I wanted to get started on the next book; the invalid was that I wasn't sure how to proceed after that.

With Sexton Sand, I'm going to write the first draft and move directly to the cleanup, and then the publish phase. Letting the manuscript sit didn't give me least not in a good way. Besides, I can't sell copies if the book is nothing more than a stack of papers on the bookshelf behind my desk.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Storm Clouds is a Kindle book, and soon the others will be...


I see from my reports that Storm Clouds Over Sexton, is in the catalog at as a Kindle book. And, I'm glad to report that Amazon has increased the royalty they pay to a percentage in line with what other producers of electronic books pay.

I don't have a date yet for when the softcover version of Sexton will be for sale at but there's no need to wait. You can buy all three by clicking on the previews on the right side of  this blog, or by going to and searching for my name.

I have the cover now for Sexton Sand, the fourth book in the series, and you can see the cover on the right-hand side of this blog.

I'm done publishing for a few weeks. All I have done is out there, ready to order or download. I've had fun with it...but now it's time to get back to what I like best...writing more about Tom, John, Andy, Quarick, Cedric, Rolof, Aemilia...and others.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The box arrived, and I need to make...

...a couple of changes. There was a problem with the page numbering, and I like having headers on the know, with the author's name on one page and the title of the book on the opposite page. A revision is in order.
Lulu is very kind about revisions, by the way. As long as I make changes before the book is distributed to Amazon and the bookstore/library catalogs (6-8 weeks after publication on Lulu), all I have to do is order another proof copy and the changes won't cost me anything.
It looks like I'll have an extra copy of Sexton Spice in trade paperback and in hardcover to give away as Christmas presents.

My copy of Sexton Spice is in Perrysburg, OH

 As I have been the last three times FedEx tracking allowed me to follow my books from order, to first stop, to second stop, to third stop (usually Perrysburg, OH), I am nervous, excited, and anxious.

I'm always nervous because, well, it's important to me. On one hand, it's a fool's nervousness. The book either looks as good as I hope or it doesn't. It's printed, and bound. I either got it right when I clicked the "publish" button or I didn't. Still. I made the thing and I haven't seen it yet.

I already know I'll be less than thrilled with the picture on the back. I won't be disgusted by it. I already know what I look like. (That was a little joke. Little.) One of these days I'll get one of those authorlike photos, perhaps. Maybe I'll put a picture of me from college theater...MacBeth. Nah. That one scares me. I look like I just killed 12 people and it wasn't enough.

Holding my books in my hand is a dream long unrealized, and now it's here. Truth is, I really don't care about the photo. I care that people buy and read the books, and mostly that they enjoy the books. The picture? Just little old me in front of a tree with a puff of wind making my hair stand up straight. No resemblance to Tom Benton, Viper. No resemblance whatsoever...beyond the fact that we're the same height and build. Well, okay, maybe just a teensy-weensy bit of character might overlap.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dedicated book: Storm Clouds Over Sexton

I read the dedications authors put in their books, and like the other two or three people that read author's dedications, I rarely know who the author is talking about. So I thought I'd tell you this story.

The first part of the dedication is easy and every bit as sincere as the second part of the dedication. I dedicated the book to my mom and dad. They were, and are, very supportive of my writing.

The second part of the dedication is to a young man who died recently by the name of Adrian Gerber. I never met Adrian, but I heard about him from people who met him. His bravery inspired me. He died of his illness. I'd like to think his bravery inspired me just because it was bravery, but that's not entirely the case. I suffered an illness that could have killed me and it didn't. Adrian Gerber wasn't spared, but from what I heard he kept his spirit clean and positive.

Dedicating a book, by the way, is pretty easy. You just type what you want to say, and that's the end of it. Unless you screw up, like I did. What I did was get Adrian's last name wrong. I was one letter off when I clicked "accept" and turned Storm Clouds Over Sexton into a book. I spelled his last name as g-A-r-b-e-r. I didn't know how to fix it.

I almost let it go. I almost let my lazy self talk my better self into letting young Mister Gerber be Adrian Garber. Fixing it after the book had already been purchased and was being printed by the good people at Lulu didn't seem like a good idea. After all, wasn't dedicating the book enough? Wouldn't anyone understand a simple typo?

I couldn't let it go. It took me about 5 hours--no kidding--5 hours to study the tutorials, download the file, fix the file, upload the file, download the file, and upload it again. All because I put an "A" where there should have been an "E".

I fixed the error around one o'clock this morning. How could I not? The young man in question didn't give up. Besides, I felt an obligation (and I'll go farther...I felt God wanted me to get it right. I did....I really did.)

I'm glad I did. Mom, Dad...Adrian...this book's for you.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It always feels good when you realize you're worried about the wrong thing.

When I published Sexton, I got the first copy off the press. When I got it in my hands, I wrote "Author's copy. Copy #1."
Since then, I've published Sexton Spice, and Storm Clouds Over Sexton. There was a delay--called waiting for payday--between publishing them, and me placing an order for my copy.
In both cases, someone ordered Sexton Spice. And someone else ordered Storm Clouds Over Sexton. My first reaction was a dazed wonder--how could I have let this happen? How could I, the author, not have copy 1?
I was being...let's substitute "Silly" for the word I want to use. The word I want to use is a shortened version of "stupid excrement."
Here's the way I should have looked at it, and the way I look at it now:
  1. Someone other than me is buying the books!
  2. I'm the author. Why do I need copy 1, when I have the manuscript?
  3. (This is the dark side 1, and the most convincing to me of all) ...What if I was the only one who ordered the book? Yikes!

To my dear friends who bought Sexton Spice, and Storm Clouds Over Sexton before I bought my copies... Thank you! Make sure I autograph and authenticate your copies the next time I see you.


Sexton Spice and Storm Clouds Over Sexton--rare editions

...Who am I fooling? They're all rare at the moment...they only recently went on sale!
But... I have two errors to fix, and that means if you order the books now you'll get editions that will only get rarer as time goes by. The changes are minor, but as long as I can still fix them, I will.
Here are the changes:

Sexton Spice only has page numbers up to page 135. I'll fix it so all the pages are numbered.
Storm Clouds Over Sexton is dedicated to my parents and to a young man I never had the opportunity to meet, but who fought valiantly against the disease that took him. His name was Adrian Gerber, but I listed it as Adrian Garber by mistake. I'm going to fix that error before I send copies to his parents (who I have also never met.)

You can still order the books. Follow the links to the right.

The first three Sexton books are in print, and now I can...

...write again.

Don't get me wrong. I've had a lot of fun working with Lulu Enterprises to get Sexton, Sexton Spice, and Storm Clouds Over Sexton in print. Trust me when I say I'm looking forward to the day I'll have DSL rather than dialup internet, and a computer running something newer than Windows 98 (yes, it's true... I'm the guy running Windows 98)...but it's still been fun.

What I want to do now, and can, and frankly...must write. I love to write!

I'm about halfway through the first draft of the fourth book in the Sexton Chronicles: Sexton Sand. I don't have a timeline for completion, but if all goes well, my hope is to have it published by St. Patrick's Day.

You know what I call a hope I put in writing? ...A goal.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Opening sentence of Sexton (Sexton Chronicles, vol. 1)

"He stared at the bottom of the ravine and waited to shoot his friends."

  It's what Tom is doing when the book, the series, opens. I knew it was a harsh way to open a book, and given some of the feedback I've received, I wasn't wrong. I'm not going to apologize for it and wouldn't change it if I could. (Come to think of it, I could.)

  The sentence is thematic to the book. Although he doesn't know it at the time, eventually Tom will have to decide whether to kill his friends and betray the trust his adopted kingdom has placed in him, or if friendship is more valuable as a self definition device than loyalty to country.

  Thank God I've never had to make that kind of choice, and I hope I never do.

  It's the opening line to a series about three Americans in a different world... You know that, and I'm pretty sure you already know what Tom decides. Or do you just think you know?

Storm Clouds Over Sexton is available!

It was a busy day today, and a good one. I finalized Storm Clouds Over Sexton, and it's now for sale at as softcover, hardcover, and file download. Lulu prices are based in large part on the number of pages, and at 513 pages, this book is considerably larger than the first in the series, and a bit larger than the 2nd in the series. That's probably the only thing I have in common with the writer of the Harry Potter series.

In other good news, I extend my thanks to the people at Amazon, who are now giving writers of Kindle books 70% royalty on the price of the kindle books...a more than 100% increase over yesterday, and in line now with what other publishers of electronic books pay writers.

I'll put the preview of Storm Clouds Over Sexton on the right side of this the morning. I mean the actual morning, not the clock morning...when the sun and I rise.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I hope to do to others what I did to myself

I just finished editing Storm Clouds Over Sexton, the fourth book in the series. I wanted to stop an hour ago, but I couldn't.

It's been a year since I finished the manuscript, and (here's the part I promised in the title of this post) I forgot some of the ending. I wanted to stop editing and go to bed, but I couldn't. I wanted to see how it played out. I like it. I like it a lot. Further and unabashedly I say I hope you like it too. I also hope you can't stop once you get to the last 100 pages or so.

I don't think it'll give away to much, but if you think so...then don't read the end of this post. You see, I thought I'd share the last line of Storm Clouds Over Sexton with you here before anywhere else.


Here it is:

"He jabbed his finger in Tom's direction, "Now that, my friend, sounds like fun!"

Sunday, September 12, 2010

BMD--they make good stories

BMD: An acronym of my own creation that stands for "Brief Moment of Duh."

   It doesn't take much to suffer a BMD, and it doesn't take much for a BMD to become a major inconvenience. They're usually good for a laugh, and today's BMD is no exception.

  I work in a locked room--locked for the protection of those within. When I work in the morning, there's another person in there working with me. We each have a set of keys to the room, but they're not our keys. We get them when we punch in. My co-worker left the room for a moment and I continued working. A few minutes later, he call me from the hall and said he left his keys in the room.

  I left the room in a hurry... I didn't want to leave the poor guy in the hallway. I opened the door and he thanked me.

   "I can't believe I left my keys in there," he said.

   "It's okay. Perfectly understandable." I knew something he didn't know, but I was reluctant to spill it. I had committed my own Brief Moment of Duh.

   "Are you going to open the door?"

   I shook my head. "I would," I said by way of explanation, "but I left my keys in there when I came out to get you..."

   I'm glad I'm the one who writes the books!

Friday, September 10, 2010

My first hardcover, and it's made beautifully

I admit I was too excited to sleep well last night. I remember now what it was like to lie in bed Christmas eve, barely able to contain the excitement of unwrapping special stuff in the morning.

  It's a good thing FedEx allows tracking of packages. I watched it get closer and closer, until I grabbed the box from between the door and the storm door.

  It's pricey. At just under $40, I recommend the equally well-made softcover version of the hardcover book. But...the printing, binding, paper, and construction of components on this book is top notch. That's coming from a guy who earned his bookbinding merit badge (back when there was such a badge) when he was 13, and has continued to examine every book he ever bought with an eye on how it was made.

  ...Of course, that the book has my name in gold print on the spine under the wrap-around cover does bias me toward the book. You know, just a little.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"You did not! Show me your I.D.!"

Sometimes it's helpful to be the "mouth" in "word of mouth." I took my book with me to a couple of places in town. One of those places was the gas station near my house. I stop there several times a week, and the clerks know me by face. It's the bane and the benefit of living in a small town.

I held out my book and said, "See? I wrote a book."

She asked if she could look at it and I handed it to her. She flipped through several pages and eyeballed the description on the back with a smile on her face. "This sound good!" Her eyes hardened, though still twinkling, as she looked at me over the top of her glasses. "You wrote this? Really?"

I assured her I did.

She looked it over, trying to find my picture. Mental note made: put a photo on future books. Her eyes locked on mine and she asked again with different emphasis: "You wrote this?"


Pause. "Show me your I.D."

She was soon as she matched the name on my driver's license with the name on the book. I'm starting to like this author thing...

Library...soon, a book signing event

The public library in Vassar is the best small town library I've ever seen, and I've visited several. In my years as a professional in the Boy Scouts, I made a point of visiting libraries in towns I served.

   I just got back from a conversation with our librarian. The other day I dropped off  a copy of the cover of my first book (commercial: Sexton, by David J. Steele, available at along with the ISBN for Sexton, and Sexton Spice.

   He was pleased to hear I'm going to donate copies of the hardcover editions, but what he really wants is for me to do a book signing there. We agreed to hold off until late October, and that it's best I have some inventory on hand. I explained that it would take more sales before I have enough money to front inventory, but I think we can work something out about that. He seemed to think he can get my books cheaper than I can because he's ordering for a library. He's right about that, by the way.

  I'm excited about that.

  The other thing I feel good about is that he offered to call his contact at the Saginaw News, the feature editor, and tell her about my book. He offered to help generate as much publicity as possible, and I'm excited about that as well. Two years ago another local author (who wrote a history of Vassar) did a book signing event there. I was going to attend...and couldn't find anyplace to park. People were lined up out the door! If my books can generate half of that, I'll do a jig all the way home--which in my case, fortunately, is less than a hundred yards.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Get a 10% discount on my books until 9/30/2010

I just got an email from Lulu Enterprises, the publisher of record for my two books in print: Sexton (book 1), and Sexton Spice (book 2.)

If you order prior to 11:59 PM on September 30, you get 10% off the cover price up to $10.00 in discount.

Follow the link, and place your order. You'll be asked to register (sign up) free.

In the space that calls for coupon code, enter: AUTUMN

Here is the fancy wording from Lulu with those little caveats and what if's:

"* Disclaimer: Enter coupon code "AUTUMN" during checkout and save 10% off the purchase price. Discount cannot be used to pay for, nor shall be applied to, applicable taxes or shipping and handling charges. Maximum amount that may be applied to discount is $10.00 per account. Promotional codes cannot be applied to any previous orders. no exchanges or substitutions allowed. Only one valid promotional code may be used per order. Offer expires September 30, 2010 at 11:59 PM EDT. reserves the right to change or revoke this offer at any time. Void where prohibited.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

On writing and reading...and royalties and ego

I love to write almost as much as I love to have people read what I write. It's a good combination and drives me pretty hard. Now that I'm trying to make enough money writing to be able to commit myself to it full time, I'm also thinking about royalties.
  Here's where ego comes in, and I'm sure I'm not the first author to notice this one: there's an inverse relationship between the amount of bucks (based on format) a reader shells out to the amount of the royalty. For example: I make less than a dollar if someone buys a hardcover copy of Sexton or Sexton Spice. But...(and I'm sure I'm not alone on this one), my ego loves that someone was interested enough to shell out the money for a hardcover. The fact is, hardcovers are more expensive to produce and therefore there isn't as much money left over to pay the writer.
  I'm a bit of a fool when it comes to a struggle between ego and money. I can afford to be...because I'm not going hungry or broke. Therefore, I'm sure I'll beam and feel a warm glow when someone buys a hardcover copy of one of my books.
  Ahh...who am I fooling? At this point in my career (fledgling stage), I'm damn glad when anyone spends a dime on anything I write!

Started Sexton Chronicles group on Facebook today

I thought it would be fun to have a Sexton Chronicles group on Facebook, and anyone with a Facebook account who reads this is welcome to join (Hello, individuals in China who read this blog, and welcome!)
  My plan is to have different stuff there than is here. What that stuff is...
   ... I don't know.
We'll see how it plays out. Anyone can participate... Toss some ideas around, speculate about future developments in the books, you know...almost whatever.

Monday, September 6, 2010

This is what it feels like to sell a book? I love it!

Somebody made my day today, which is no mean feat because I almost always have good days.
  I'll confess I look at my sales reports (Kindle, and Lulu so far) on an almost obsessive basis.  I own stock and mutual funds and have never watched them this closely.
  As an optimist, I'll tell you I'm looking for good news and don't bat an eye at days when nothing sold. I just don't. It's not a morality thing, or a forced positive attitude... I just get a rush out of good news and figure no news or bad news is fleeting.
  This afternoon I looked at my Lulu sales report and saw that, at that point in time, no one had purchased Sexton, or Sexton Spice. But...when I looked again later, someone had! I think I know who, but I can't be sure. I only get numbers. The purchaser will get a thank-you email from me, but it's an auto-send thing.
  I know it wasn't my wife, my mother, or my father. But I can tell you this: I feels great. It's a warm feeling, knowing that I gave my best shot at writing an entertaining, hopefully seat-of-the-pants fantasy novel. Lulu will print and mail a copy just for them...and after that, it's up to the reader.
  I say this with both humility and hope: I really want them to enjoy reading it!
  I say this as a writer who wants his books, his series, to grow wings and fly: PLEASE, EVERYBODY, BUY...THE...BOOKS!
  I'm going to hit the hay now. ...All that dancing I did to the music playing in my head done tuckered me out!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I'd love a traditional publisher, but self-publishing has advantages too.

Traditional publishers produce lots of books, have editorial, and production, and design, and marketing staffs, and big budgets. They can do a lot for writers...make bestsellers out of 'em. If you're a brand name author, that's the way to go.
  Most of the time, if a writer can land a book contract at all, the book lands on the publisher's list, might or might not get placed in book stores...and if all those things happen, the book will land on a shelf among thousands of other books.
  Someday I'll get there.
  But...and it's a big but... Self-publishing (once dubbed by The Big Boys as "Vanity Press"), has come leaps and bounds. You know what the #1 advantage I have right now with my self-published books is?
  I still own all the rights. I have 2 Kindle books, and Amazon owns the Kindle platform...but not the books. Lulu is my publisher of record for the paperback and hardcover versions of my books...but only because they own the ISBN. I signed no contract with them, and can yank my books from Lulu with a few day's notice. It's a big advantage, especially because as Vice-President of Marketing (in addition to doing everything else for my mythical company I call Sexton Enterprises), I plan to publish Sexton books in every available format I can figure out how to use.
  Still... I make no bones about it, I'd rather be published by someone else than published by--you know--me.
...Now that's vanity! 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why Lulu? (a different question than "Why, Lulu?")

I went with Lulu to publish the paper copies of my novels (1 so far with more to come) for several reasons. First and foremost, I was looking for a self-publisher that didn't seem to want to rip me off. It's buyer beware when it comes to printing people's stuff. Flip through the back pages of Writer's Digest and you'll see a lot of ads for self-publishing companies.
  Lulu was the one I found that earned my trust very quickly. For one, they don't charge upfront fees. There's no setup fee at all. They make money when the author makes money, period. If someone, like me, feels comfortable with the tasks needed: writing (the big one), editing, proofreading, cover layout and design, cover copy, etc., they can do it themselves and Lulu won't say a peep. They offer a' la carte services for a fee, but you don't have to use them. They don't nag you with emails, or ads, or testimonials. They provide a free ISBN number, which by nature of its use makes Lulu the publisher, but that's no big deal. I read the fine print. They use their number, and will deduct taxes from your royalties like any other publisher, but the author retains all rights. If I decide at some point in time that I don't want Lulu to be the publisher, then I pull the book and get my own ISBN. Lulu, in turn, lists my work with Amazon, Bowkers, and several other cataloging companies that booksellers look to for books.
  Most of the markup (and I count anything that doesn't go into my pocket as markup) is Lulu's printing cost, and profit margin...just like any regular publisher has to do.
  They're pretty smart, those people at Lulu, when it comes to protecting our mutual interest. They let me buy my books at cost. In fact, they're forcing me to buy one copy of each...hardcover and softcover, before they'll ship a single copy to anyone. That's not so they guarantee one sale, although it does. I'm sure they're covering themselves. If I have to buy one print copy and approve it before they start printing it on demand, I can't attack them if I don't like the way it looks.
  So... My apologies to anyone who orders a copy of Sexton before my hard copy arrives... I can assure you I'll approve it as fast as I can so my publisher, Lulu, can ship your copy to you.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Response to a dingbat with a bad attitude

I was bored the other night and glanced at a forum about self-publishing. So far, my works are self-published. I'm doing that for two reasons: 1) because I can and five years after leaving a salaried job that paid well, my wife was (rightly) questioning when I was going to generate some revenue from writing, and 2) because I'm convinced that paper publishers (rightly) need to be convinced writer's work will be profitable before they publish. I intend to approach a paper publisher...with sales figures as well as good writing. the forum I was reading, some dingbat with a bad attitude tried to hammer a bunch of self-published writers by explaining that she is a painter of original art. She said, the has an attic full of original art, but that it was going to stay there until she got an art gallery to put on a show.
  The writers reacted with a kind of hurt self-defense.
  I think she's a dingbat. I ought to know. I was doing the dingbat thing myself...
  I had three complete first drafts of novels sitting in the bookcase behind my desk. I hadn't submitted them to a publisher, mostly because I was more focused on creating than I was on selling. Three piles of paper that stood about 15 inches tall when stacked up on top of each other. Ppppppbbbbblllllttt! What the hell was I waiting for? A publisher to detect them through supernatural means? A chance to get (still another) rejection letter praising my writing, but saying they just didn't think there was a market for it at this time?
  Nah. I'll prove there's a market. I'll make a market if I have to. Sometimes it pays to be the cocky little bastard I am...most of the time, in fact. :-D

New alarm clock results in late-night cussing fit

Several months ago I bought an expensive alarm clock. I liked it a lot. It has a circular screen, and I can choose to have it digital, or "analog" with hands on the screen. I can change the color on the screen. I can wake to CD, or iPod, or AM, or FM....set two alarms. It's a very cool clock.
   I hated it. You see (and I saw), the damn thing glows too bright. I has a dimmer switch on the back, but I could, and did, make hand puppet shapes on the wall. It's hard to sleep when light from your damn alarm clock pours through your eyelids like the sun...if the sun was green, or light blue, or navy blue.  Heck, I'm sure I could get paisley if I wanted.
  After six months of bad sleep due to the brilliant nature of the damn clock... I bought a new one yesterday. The old one is in the guest room (I like guests, but I also like it when they don't stay long.)
   Ready for a laugh? Well... I have one for you.
  1) Our bed has a footboard. On the corners of the footboard are oak, decorative, bulb-on-the-bottom and sharpish-on-the-top, thingamabobs.
  2) I  woke in the middle of the night last night and decided to use the toilet.
  3) I'm used to being able to see by the light of the old alarm clock.
  4) I'm 5'6" tall...and my waist is barely above the top of the decorations from hell on the footboard.
  Last night, at 3:07 AM...this is what my wife heard:
FLUSH! "Uh-oh" ...careful step, careful step...confident step...

And yes... I got no sympathy whatsoever!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I want to hold it in my hands...the book, I mean.

Several people have asked me if Sexton will be sold in print form. Well...shoot. Yes. The answer will be yes.

I'm going to use a print on demand publisher. Print on demand is just what it sounds like: when someone orders a copy, it will be printed and shipped to them. Sexton will be available in trade paperback, hopefully by Halloween. It will be a small press book, which means those who purchase it will find it a bit more expensive than the average trade paperback. A trade paperback, by the way is a larger size than the average paperback... Sometimes it's called a "Softcover" as opposed to a "Hardcover" book.

I'm going to keep the price as close to $20.00 as I can. That's quite a bit more than an ebook, and frankly, the royalty is actually smaller, but like many of my readers (and, please Lord, let there be more of those), I want to be able to hold the thing in my hand and dog-ear the pages like a lot of other people.

For now, though, I have a lot of work to do on my manuscript in terms of formatting for a bunch of different electronic formats. .I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hot Dawg! My first spam...worldwide blog style

I moderate comments on this blog. Odds are very good that if you want to post a comment, I'll allow it. That's part of the fun.
  Having said that...
  I can say with almost complete certainty that the odds I'll ever look for an escort in Delhi, India are minuscule.

I saved the email... You just never know what you'll need.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Update: Storm Clouds Over Sexton (Sexton Chronicles, Vol. 3)

Storm Clouds Over Sexton brings Sexton and Crescens one step closer to war. The three Americans are sent by the same king who ordered the death sentence on them, to the country of Crescens to the south. Their mission: broker peace before war begins in earnest. I'll tell you this much...mission not accomplished.

The first draft was completed in September 2009. I'm polishing the manuscript now (to the tune of 50 pages a day) and hope to have it available for purchase by September 15.

The fourth book in the series, Sexton Sand is about midway through first draft. With any luck at all, I'll have it available for sale by St. Patrick's Day.