Opinions, Quality and a Great Experience

Recently I read an article titled, Dear Writers: Stop Releasing So Many Novels. If you haven’t read it, you can find it here: https://ryanlanz.com/2017/02/26/dear-writer-stop-releasing-so-many-novels/.

I think the author of this blog had some fairly valid points. I also saw where quite a few of the comments on his post were negative and contradictory to what he stated. I think one of the key aspects to this piece is the author clearly stating it was his opinion. A lot of folks missed that before pulling out the whips, chains and knives.

I am a fairly prolific writer. It doesn’t take me long to pound out a thousand words or more. If I really wanted to, I could easily write 6 or 7 novels in a year. No, that is not bragging, just stating an honest fact. However, I have no desires to put out that many books in one year.

I am a plodder. What I mean is I plod along in my stories, often reading what I wrote previously before I write the next day. I am methodical in that approach, which allows me to get into the mindset (even if for just ten minutes at a time) of my current WIP(s). This allows me to pound out those thousand words a day with relative ease.

Just because I can write a bunch of words doesn’t mean they are all good words or that they should all see the light of day. In truth, over half the stories I write I would never show the world. I could probably put out 8 or 9 volumes titled Crap I’ve Written with the amount of stories I’ve completed that should NEVER be read by any reader.

So often in marketing, the idea is to hit the customer with catch phrases and logos over and over again. Repetition is the key to people remembering who we are or what product we are selling. People making sales pitches will often say the same thing three times, with each one having more emphasis than the last. Again, this tactic is often used to get you to remember what is being said (or sold).

This same mindset seems to have taken hold here in the business of publishing. It is one thing to have your advertisements and logos in front of people. It is another thing to write a novel and put it out as quickly as possible. And then do it again. And again. And again.

The argument here isn’t necessarily about how many words someone can put out in a day, week, month, year. The argument isn’t even about putting out one novel as opposed to six. The argument is how many quality works can someone put out in any given time period?

I know, from experience, that I can put out a lot of good work in a short amount of time. Does that mean it is my best work? Not necessarily. Does that mean it needs to go from concept to written to published in a couple of months? Not necessarily. There are no real facts supporting time from start to finish equating to poor or good quality. I say that as someone who believes in taking my time in getting from one project to another. I don’t rush them, no matter how bad I want them to be done and out the door for people to read. If it is not ready, it is not ready.

But that is me. I plod along. Some people race along at breakneck speeds. We are all different.

I don’t believe I could ever put out six or seven novels in one year. I could write a ton of short stories, but novels? Nope. I just don’t see that happening. But some folks can. And of those some folks, some of them probably put out quality book after quality book. My question: how many of them can do it?

Something at the end of that article really stuck with me, though, and I believe it is somewhat accurate: Drafting a novel quickly is not the problem; rather, the problem is releasing everything that touches a Word document within six months of conception in an attempt to inflate the number of works attached to your name.

I think a lot of folks took offense to this. I know writers who do this very thing, who have said they do this very thing. This amounts to the whole marketing concept of hit them hard and continuously with ads about you and your product. In our case, put out as many titles as you can in a short amount of time to keep your name in front of the readers. Eventually, someone is going to see your name enough to think ‘hey, I should read something this person put out.’ This is subliminal advertising at its best, kind of like the theaters showing us people with food and drinks in their hands going into the movies. Doesn’t that just make you want to go get the jumbo popcorn soaked in heart attack butter and the mega-bladder buster soda?

The mindset seems to be ‘the more I have out there, the better chance I have of making sells.’ While that may be true in many cases, I go back to should you or I do that? I know I can put out a ton of work in a year. That doesn’t mean I will put out a ton of work in a year. I’m not going to pad my catalogue with inferior stories just because I can. It’s not fair to me and it is not fair to the reader.

What it boils down to is the reader. Without them there are no books being bought and read and no need for us to publish. The writer is not the person who is important here. It is the reader. It’s not just about getting readers, but getting them and making sure they are happy with what you put out time and time again.

I want to give readers an experience, and not just any experience, but one they won’t forget. It’s like buying a burger. I’m not going to pay six or seven bucks for a burger at McDonald’s. Two bucks tops, and that would be because I am hungry and their burgers are relatively inexpensive, though friendly service seems to always be lacking. However, if I go to Fuddruckers, I expect to pay between six and eight dollars for one of their burgers. The quality of the food is great and the service is always friendly, therefore I would pay a higher price for it. I also come away more satisfied with the money I spent based on the quality of the food I ate and the service I received. My experience is worth more money at one establishment than at the other.

It’s the same with reading. I want you to have a great experience when reading my stories. I want you to feel you received the value out of them that you paid for. I want you to say, ‘that story was so good I would buy it again.’ Not that you would buy the same story, but hopefully, you would try something else on the menu. That menu would be the catalogue of books you can choose from. You read Dredging Up Memories and liked it? Why not read Cory’s Way? Hey, Along the Splintered Path was good? Why not curl up on your couch with A Stitch of Madness? I believe in the menu I present to you. I believe in its quality. It’s not McDonald’s.

If you paid five or ten or even fifteen dollars for something I wrote, I want you to feel you got your money’s worth. I want you to feel like you received Fuddruckers, not McDonalds. But I’ll be honest with you, if I put out five or six books in a year, you would be getting the Quickie Mart on the corner of Not Good Street and This Sucks Avenue, and that’s not what I want.

I know some folks might not like some of what I wrote here. It’s not meant to be offensive and it is not angst driven. Sure, there are some folks who can put out quality work every single time they sit to write. Sure, there are some folks—some being the key word here—who can put out three, four, seven books in a year and they are professionally done and are quality stories. I absolutely believe that. But most people can’t.

I’m never going to say you should do this or you should do that or you shouldn’t do something. Each person does things their own way. If you can put out six quality novels in one year, I say, ‘wow’ and ‘congratulations’ to you. It’s not easy to put out one or two quality works in a year, so it is amazing when someone can put out many quality titles over a twelve month period.

For me, and for you, the readers, I want you to have a great experience with my stories. If that means I only put out one book or two tops over a year period, then so be it. I would rather do it that way, than to bombard you with mediocre stories that do nothing for you.

The article I read was hit or miss. Some would agree with the author. Others would not and that is okay. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on my thoughts, and the writer of that article should probably not expect a one hundred percent approval rating, either. But he hit on some things I have griped about over the years and he made me think, and that is always a good thing. And I hope I made you think, even if it was just about burgers.

Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.



All We See is the End

From the minds of A.J. Brown and M.F. Wahl comes two horrific tales of struggle and loss you won’t soon forget.

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 2.35.48 PM.pngRun For the Flame takes us into a world where an ice age has engulfed everything, driving life underground. The Sanctuary holds the last vestiges of humanity, but its walls are cracking and the ice is slowly encroaching. In their last grasp at survival, the community is forced to send their boys on an all important run for the flame … none have ever returned.

In Purple Haze, a crash landing on an uninhabited planet strands Adira and the surviving members of her crew. Surrounded by a quiet world of blue grass and purple skies, danger lurks within the beauty. Without contact to Earth and light years from home, they encounter a treacherous enemy that threatens to destroy them from the inside out.

Wahl, a #1 Wattpad featured author, and Brown, whose stories have appeared in over 200 publications, use their easy styles to draw you in and hold you close. Welcome to their nightmares.

Get the ebook on Amazon today.

Quality: A Lost Art

I was at my son’s school recently. No, school hasn’t started back, yet, but it’s about to. It was open house and to say it was a mad house is an understatement. There were people everywhere and it was difficult to move around. Even with all that, one of my son’s friends’ mothers stopped me in the hall.

And that was no easy task.

I had passed her, not knowing she was there. Again, it was a mad house. I thought I heard my name—no, not my first name, but my last name, and there was a Mr. In front of it. I looked back to see one of my son’s closest friends and her brother and mother. I gave the little girl a hug and said hey to her brother and mother. That’s when all sorts of coolness ensued.

Through all the noise, her mom said to me, ‘I read your story online the other day, and I really liked it. Is there more to it?’

For a second or four I was confused. Did I have a story published online recently that I didn’t remember?

Then she asked, ‘Where do I find the rest of the story? I want to read it from the beginning?’

‘Ahh…’ It dawned on me.

‘You mean Dredging Up Memories?’ I asked.

‘Yes,’ she responded, ‘It’s really good. I want to read it from the beginning. Where do I find the rest of it?’

Okay, stop, collaborate and listen…(Doh! Did I just write that? ::Looking at previous line:: Yup, I guess I did.) This was a great moment for me. Let me break this down for you:

  1. ‘It’s really good.’ Every writer wants to hear this from people. The fact that one of my boy’s friends’ mothers liked it and told me she liked it, felt really good.
  2. ‘I want to read it from the beginning.’ Dredging Up Memories is a zombie series. No, it’s not like The Walking Dead at all, other than the fact that it has a bunch of shambling zombies trying to eat the main character and any other living person. She had read chapter XVIII of the series. She liked it enough to want to read the story of Hank Walker from the beginning. Awesomeness.
  3. ‘Where do I find the rest?’ This goes with point number 2 above, but it is also it’s own little note.       Why? Simple: She asked where could she find the rest. She wanted to know and she asked. So often folks will read something by someone and say, ‘hey, I wonder if that person has written anything else?’ but then they never search out the answer to the question. She sought the answer, and I am thrilled she did.

These types of things make a writer feel good; it makes a writer feel as if he/she is doing something right.

Remember this for later.

I like flea markets. I like yard sales. For the most part, I peruse items on tables or on the ground or on chairs or even on an old ironing board (yes, for real and for true). Sometimes I find something I like at a price I like. Most times that doesn’t happen. Most times, there is nothing that interest me.

But sometimes while at a yard sale or flea market I run into people I haven’t seen in a while. Yeah, I know that can happen pretty much anywhere, like, I don’t know, the mall or a restaurant or the kids’ school. Stick with me here. There’s a reason for this.

There used to be a gentleman who worked at the post office right down from where I work. He was the nicest guy, always had a smile on his face, and always asked how you were doing. He went out of his way to help customers as best as he could. He was a great guy and when I saw him at the counter we always talked for probably longer than we should have.

After not seeing him for several years I ran into him three times in one day recently. The third time I saw him was at the flea market. Cate just happened to see him and pointed him out to me. I laughed. He did, too, when I walked up to him and told him I was stalking him. Since he was talking to two other people, I chose not to interrupt, but to wait patiently until he was done—or at least until he took a breath. While I waited, he said something that, to me, holds so much truth in it:

‘I always tell my sons if you give people your best and treat people with respect and kindness, then those people will always remember you and respect you and want to be around you.’

There’s so much truth in those words.

Stick with me just a little while longer. There is a point to all of this.

Back in October of 2013 the place I work at lost a giant of a man. He was well respected and dedicated to his work and his family and his faith. When he died it sent shockwaves, not just through the office, but also throughout the nation. A huge void was left in many lives when he passed.

When everything settled down and life started moving on at the office, I was charged with getting things in order, boxing things up, and cleaning out his office. I admit, it wasn’t something I wanted to do. This man had treated me so well, even when a lot of his peers looked down their noses at me. It took the rest of the year and on into the first month or so of 2014 to complete the task. I learned more about him just from going through everything and getting his office and conference room and library and storage rooms cleaned out than I ever did having worked for him for years.

I came across a little plastic plaque in his office. I had seen it before, and many of you have probably seen something like it as well. It read:

Quality is giving your best every time with a personal touch.

Let that sink in. Go ahead.



Still sinking?

Here’s the point I’m trying to make:

Too often we don’t put our very best effort forward. Too often we don’t give it that personal touch. Instead, we rush through things to get them done and off our plates, and when someone slows us down we don’t add that personal touch, but we get grumpy and angry, and so many times we take it out on the person we should be giving our best effort to. Too often we don’t treat people with respect and kindness. Oh, they remember us when that happens, but not for the right reasons.

We see it everyday. Customer service at a fast food joint or the DMV or even at our own jobs. Most of us are guilty of not giving our best effort with every opportunity. We see it in our homes, as well. This world is no longer about respect and kindness, but more about what is in it for me.

We see it a lot in the publishing world. Just listen to anyone talking about the Amazon/Hachette feud. Just listen to any writer who is unhappy that they aren’t getting published and making money and someone they feel is inferior to them is being published left and right. We live in the all about me world.

This takes me back to the beginning of this post. You know that woman at the beginning, my son’s friend’s mom? Yeah. She’s an avid reader. And she likes my work. Why? The quality of it. If it were no good, then she wouldn’t have mentioned it to me. Quite possibly, she would have probably been a little uncomfortable around me. She may have even been thinking, ‘please, don’t ask me if I read the story and if I liked it.’ She certainly wouldn’t have asked me how she could find more.

With ebooks and self-publishing anyone can write something and throw it out to the world. Anyone can say he or she is a published author. Anyone. But they don’t have to work hours and hours on it—again, it can be slapped up on Amazon at any time and voila, published author. I talked about those people in my last blog, so I want get into that now.

What I will get into is something I have come to strongly believe in. Quality is not necessarily doing what everyone else is doing. Quality is about taking the time to do something that you can truly believe in, and at the end of the day you can hang your hat on it and say, ‘I gave it my very best.’ Quality isn’t just slapping something together and putting it out there and saying, ‘Yay, I’m going to be rich.’ For most of us, it doesn’t work that way.

This is why I do things the way I do them, especially when it comes to writing. When I first started out to get published at the end of 2003 I didn’t know any better. I thought everyone would love my work and that I could just write and the masses would come calling. What an idiot I was. I put sub par work out there, but not intentionally. I truly thought the work was good. It had to be right? Someone was willing to publish it, so it had to be good, right? Not necessarily. I have almost 200 short story publications, and if I could take some of them back, I would. In. A. Heartbeat.

Then I realized a truth that stung.

I sucked.

No. Really. I sucked.

When I realized this, I could have been defiant and continued to suck. Or I could have just quit and said, ‘this is too much work.’

After I realized how bad I S.U.C.K.E.D. I started paying close attention to what people were saying. I would pick out things in my own stories and focus on those things for several months. Then I would move on to something else and focus on it. And so on.

That’s when I came to realize, that for me to be the writer I wanted to be I couldn’t be like everyone else. I couldn’t be all cookie cutter. I had to write the way I wanted to, the way I enjoyed writing. For me, finding myself, my voice, was the beginning of finding quality in the writing/publishing world.

Believe me, there have been a multitude of times I wondered if the effort was really worth it. Go back to the beginning of this post and ask yourself, ‘was it worth it?’

Simply: Yes.

I’ve gone very longwinded today, and for that I apologize. If you have stuck with me until now, stick around for another minute or two and I promise I’ll wrap things up.

To create anything of quality you have to put forth the effort. You have to be determined. If the first ten times you fail to create what you want to create, do it an eleventh time. Nothing truly gained is done so without effort.

As a writer, I don’t want you to read crap. I especially don’t want you to read crap written by me. I want you to enjoy what you read. I want to tell you a story. I don’t want to just entertain you, but I want to give you an experience you can remember. It’s not quite like Disney World or a giant roller coaster or running with bulls, but I want you, Faithful Readers, to experience my stories. I want you to come away saying, ‘that was cool,’ or ‘that was awesome.’ If you go looking for other things I’ve written after reading one of my stories, then that tells me your experience with me was a good one. As a writer, that’s what I want: to give you my best with a personal touch and leave you with a good experience when I am done.

I hope your experience with me is always a good one. With that, I leave you with a quote from Aristotle:

‘Quality is not an act, it is a habit.’

Until we meet again, my friends…