Early October Update

Holy crap, so much to discuss. Where should I begin?

First, the writing is coming along well. I’m doing a quick revision of Patriots in Retreat to get it ready for publication in January. It’s actually much better than I remember. Hopefully the same can be said of A Queen in Hiding, because I’m finishing that one next.

My goal is to have A Queen in Hiding up for preorder by the time Patriots in Retreat goes live. To do that, I need to have them both published by the beginning of January. It doesn’t get any easier, either, because An Empire in Disarray needs to be up for preorder before A Queen in Hiding goes live in March, and I haven’t even started that one yet!

It’s a pretty demanding schedule, but that’s good, because I need more practice at keeping deadlines and schedules. And if all goes well, the Sons of the Starfarers series will be complete by summer 2018.

On the publishing end of things, I’m making some changes to my pricing strategy after reading an interesting post by Dean Wesley Smith. Will probably do a longer blog post on that topic. It’s all an experiment, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

So much other stuff happening on the publishing / marketing ends of things. I’m getting ready to put out print versions of everything I’ve published. That’s going to take a while. Also, I want to start experimenting with audiobooks. Lots of fantastic new opportunities have opened up there, and I need to figure out how best to take advantage of them.

On a more personal note, Friday was my last day at the day job. Good company and good people, but the work schedule was too inflexible, and it’s more important right now to pursue my writing career. With the money I’ve managed to save, I plan to move back to Utah and spend a few months working exclusively on the writing and publishing. Expect to see big things from me in the not so distant future!

Late September update

I am not a pleasant person to be around when I’m struggling to finish a difficult book.

Me: There’s just not enough time in the day.

Dad: I know how you feel, son.

Me: I don’t think that you do. You’ve never been self-employed.


Me: I need to quit my job.

Dad: But Joe, what about the benefits?

Me: Screw the benefits! I don’t want to be dependent on anyone for “benefits.” Besides, there’s a public pension crisis looming over this country, and in ten years your teacher’s pensions are all going to dry up. You can thank a decade of 0% interest rates for those “benefits.”

Like I said, not very pleasant.

So I had to push the deadline back another week for A Queen in Hiding. Really hate to do that. Problem is, the only writing time I can carve out of my schedule comes in short 1-2 hour chunks, and a single interruption can throw off everything. Like when a truck shows up during my lunch break. Or like when I’m playing catch-up and sleep in past my alarm.

It doesn’t help that every chapter, I run up against a wall that forces me to go back two or three chapters and completely change the direction of the story. This is definitely one of the weirdest books I’ve ever written. It’ll come together eventually, but it’s definitely taking more effort than it’s worth. Should lead the series in an interesting direction, though, and tie into the Gaia Nova series much further down the road. If I ever write any more of those books.

Anyway, so that’s coming along slowly. On the marketing end, I’m trying out a bunch of new things and/or working harder at things I’ve been doing for a while. All of my free and 99¢ book deals are scheduled through August 2018—now I just need to figure out how I’m going to promote them.

Not much is happening on the publishing front, other than The Sword Keeper which comes out this weekend. I’ve got a release schedule that runs through August 2018, which is part of the reason why I’m so stressed about getting Sons of the Starfarers finished. That series WILL be complete before the end of 2018, hopefully before July 2018. Four more books, of which 1.5 are currently written.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Time to get back to writing.

3am thoughts, or why everyone says to be an accountant (Blast from the Past: October 2013)

A lot of my blog posts this week had to do with money, wealth, and politics, so when I was searching for an old post to bring back, this one made me stop and reflect for a while.

My opinions and perspective have changed a bit since I wrote it, but the fundamental message is still one that I agree with. I’ve trimmed out some of the parts where I think I was wrong, and left the stuff that still resonates. Hopefully it resonates with you as well. Either way, feel free to let me know.

I’ve been reading in bed on my smart phone recently, which is probably a bad idea because it makes it harder to go asleep. At the same time, it tends to get my mind rolling, and at 3am my thoughts tend to go some really interesting places. Sharing those thoughts is probably going to get me into trouble, but hey, you might find them interesting, so why not?

When I was eight years old, I knew I was going to be a writer.  There was never any question about that. I spent all my free time making up stories.  However, I knew I never wanted writing to be my job, because 1) everyone hates their jobs, and 2) everyone knows that writers can’t make a decent living. Even at eight years old, I had bought into some of society’s most pervasive myths about jobs, careers, and how to make money.

Americans are generally horrible with money. We struggle to keep budgets and put all sorts of things on credit, and pay more than twice what our houses are worth by signing mortgages we barely even read. Because we’re so horrible with money, we tend to see it as a magical force, something that can solve all our problems and make us happy. Rich people are like wizards or sorcerers, so far above the rest of us that we can hardly fathom their ways.

Nowhere is this stupidity more apparent than in the fact that most of us spend our lives working for some sort of hourly or salaried wage. Wages and salaries are basically the same, in that they convert time into money. That’s why we all measure income in terms of dollars per hour, or salary per year.  But for anyone who understands how money works, that is stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid. Money comes and goes, but time? Time is one of the most finite and precious resources known to man.

All of us are going to die someday. Most people are scared shitless by that fact, so we try to ignore it or put off thinking about it until we have to. But not all of us get the opportunity to put our affairs in order before we die. And even if we do all live to be centenarians, our time on this Earth is still finite. It’s non-renewable, too—you can’t go back and relive that day or that hour or that minute once it’s passed.

Converting time into money is basically trading gold for lead, or wine for water. Yet that’s exactly what we do, because money is this strange, magical force that so few of us understand.

Questions like “where do you work?” “what is your job?” and “what do you make?” are much more common than “what do you do for a living?” That’s because most of us have bought into this idea that money comes from working for someone else. While we’re on the clock, the company owns us and anything we produce. That’s the pact we make in exchange for this magical substance we call money.

It wasn’t until college that I started to become disabused of my childhood notions about writing for a living. First, I came to realize that lots of people love their work—that just because you do something as a job doesn’t mean that you’ll come to hate it. But it wasn’t until I graduated unemployed in the middle of a recession that I was disabused of the notion that writers can’t make a living.

People say that about every career—that is, every career except accounting. That’s because accountants are the ones who count the magical money. They’re the ones who know where it comes from. Their jobs are the ones that the people with the magical money will always need.

But there are other ways to make money—thousands of ways. Millions, even. It’s not about time it’s about producing something that people want and need. But when you’re working for yourself, that’s hard. You have to own up to your work—the failures as well as the successes.

When you work for a corporation, it’s easy to shift the blame. It’s a rare case where one person is solely responsible for bringing down the whole collective enterprise. But when you work for yourself, you can’t blame anyone else when things go wrong. You’ve got to take the risk.

That’s why everyone says that you can’t make a living as a writer. They say the same thing about any career where you strike out on your own.

In the end, though, it’s all just silly. Money isn’t a vague magical force—it comes from the value you create. It comes from producing something that people are willing to pay you for. And you don’t need to sell your time at $11 an hour or $44,000 a year to do that. You just need hard work, a great idea, and the ability to learn from your mistakes.

So can you make a living pursuing your dreams? The answer to that question depends entirely on you.

Things I Learned from Working in a Call Center (Blast from the Past: September 2010)

While poking around in the archives, I came across this interesting post from my first year out of college. At the time, I was just getting started in the labor force and wanted to learn as much from my jobs as I could—even the mundane ones. The result was this.

Over the summer I worked part time at a local call center.  At the time, it was just what I needed: a flexible job that helped me pay the bills while figuring out where I wanted to go next.  That said, I learned very quickly that call center work is not the sort of thing I want to do for large portions of my life.

I’m glad to say I quit my job on good terms with the management, and was one of their more productive interviewers.  I don’t harbor any hard feelings against the company I worked for or any of the particular employees.

However, I do want to reflect a bit on the nature of the work itself, which was less than awesome, as well as some of the things I learned about myself in the process.  Since this has nothing to do with the company I worked for, I’m not going to mention it by name.  Also keep in mind that the things I have to say are heavily influenced by my own opinions, so they may not apply to you.

That said, here are some of the things I learned from working in a call center:

1) In the long run, jerks only punish themselves.

I spoke with a lot of incredibly rude people in this job.  I also spoke with a lot of people who were courteous and well-meaning.  Without exception, the jerks seemed overstressed and miserable, while only the courteous people ever seemed genuinely happy and content with their lives.

I think the way we treat others says more about ourselves than anything else.  People who are mean and nasty to each other are never truly happy.

2) A small amount of patience makes most things go faster and smoother.

I hated it when people told me “just put ten for everything.” As an interviewer, I couldn’t do that—I was required to ask every question verbatim.  Those who were patient enough to let me do that got through the survey quickly and painlessly, while the impatient people who tried to rush things almost always got upset.

I think it’s safe to say that this has a general application as well.  When we’re patient enough to let things happen the way they’re supposed to, things happen faster and more smoothly.  When we try to rush things that shouldn’t be rushed, we screw up.

3) The ability to genuinely listen is a rare skill.

I can’t tell you how many times I asked a simple question on a survey, only to find the person on the other line answering something completely different.  I didn’t expect anyone to drop everything and devote their full attention to me, but how much effort does it take to answer a simple question?

I’ve known for a long time that listening is a skill that requires work to cultivate, but apparently, it’s also one that few people have truly mastered.  If you can’t understand a straightforward question well enough to give a yes or no answer, how can you understand something as complex as another person’s feelings?

4) Political campaigns are evil.

This is a little tongue in cheek, but I stand by it one hundred percent.  Every survey we conducted for a political campaign asked questions that were clearly geared toward developing negative campaign ads and manipulating public perception.  None of them asked how the government could best serve the people.

5) Having a flexible work schedule makes writing both easier and harder.

It makes it easier because you can plan your time around other things that are going on; it makes it harder because your days generally have less structure.

I think I hit a pretty good balance by working in the morning and writing in the afternoon, then going in to work again in the evenings if I needed the hours.  Call centers are always looking for people to work in the evenings.

6) Reducing everything to numbers makes human interactions meaningless.

This was, by far, the thing I found most frustrating about my work.  I talked with hundreds of people from all over the country and didn’t connect with hardly any of them on a personally significant level.  It was all about checking off boxes, where each completed survey was just another number in the system.

This tended to be more true of the short surveys, less true of the longer ones.  For that reason, I loved it when I got a survey that took twenty or thirty minutes to complete.  It’s very hard to talk with someone for thirty minutes without making some kind of a connection with them, however fleeting.

7) If you have a love of learning, find a job that lets you use your mind.

To be perfectly honest, I never felt completely satisfied at my work.  A robot with sufficiently advanced voice recognition software could probably have done my job as well as I could (at least for the ninety second surveys).  Over time, I felt like my work was turning me into a robot.

That’s ultimately why I felt I had to get out.  Maybe I have a problem with authority, but I can’t stand being just another cog in the corporate machine.  There’s got to be a way to pay the bills and still live life meaningfully.

Image courtesy W. Lowe

New day job, new routine

So I just got a part-time day job with Monsanto, here in the Des Moines area. My brother-in-law works as a scientist there, so he was able to connect me with the right people. It’s basically a warehouse job, handling all the shipping and receiving as well as the inventory. The hours are perfect, the job is interesting, and the people are really awesome, so I think things are going to work out really well.

Of course, that means adjusting to a new daily routine, which is why I neglected this blog all last week. Writing takes priority, so I’ve been focused on that first. I’m currently working on a short story prequel to Gunslinger to the Stars, which should be done later today and up for you guys to read before the end of the month.

I’m really, really excited about Gunslinger to the Stars. I think it’s my best sci-fi adventure novel yet. It’s coming out right around the same time as Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which also looks really awesome. Think Guardians of the Galaxy meets Monster Hunter International, with a heaping dose of Firefly mixed in for good measure. That’s Gunslinger to the Stars.

Gunslinger to the Stars

Gunslinger to the Stars

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Sam Kletchka here, freelance gunslinger and interstellar privateer. This, my friends, is how I went from being stranded in the armpit of the galaxy to becoming the luckiest human being in the universe. More info →
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Lots and lots of stuff going on, but it looks like things are finally settling into a new routine. I should have a lot more for you guys in the future.

Have a fantastic weekend, and thanks for reading!