Retiring to Cyberspace. The road less traveled.

I am a retiree. At least that’s what I’m called now. I left my occupation as a sales agent seven years ago.

I was in fact, a face to face and on the phone kind of guy, that’s what I did. I’d call you, make an appointment and show you my wares. I traveled from my home in Calgary, Alberta, Canada to Alaska, Houston, Texas, and Scotland.

All the time with my wares, my laptop, and my spiel. We salesmen always had a spiel, or what is called our story of what we are selling.

However, in 2011 I’d had enough of the road, enough of the whole thing. I no longer wanted to hit the road. I was done. What was next I asked myself? Who would believe that writing books would be the answer?

If we all search deep in ourselves, our true desire in life will come out. Perhaps, and I say this with all honesty, we have no way of achieving our dream of some greatness, but if we strive at what we desire, is that not achieving the dream?

So, in this vein, I began to write. I actually picked up a writing career I’d dropped back in 1988. I’d once fancied myself a freelance writer. I’d sent off several inquiries, been accepted and had written for large newspapers and magazines in Canada.

But, and this was a major but, there was little to no money in it. A travel article that was a full two-page spread with pictures would net me $120.00. A small two-column op-ed piece could get me $80.00.

I tried, I said to myself, I didn’t want to be broke my whole life, so I put away my IBM Selectric typewriter and went back into the world of sales, where I would happily make money until my retirement.

In retirement, what reared its head was the failure in 1988. Imagine that. My brain still had the memory of that day I folded up my writer’s tent and tail between my legs, said, “you’ll never be a writer…there’s no money in it.” What my brain had remembered was my writer self-cowering and the words, “chicken!”

The way of marketing writing had changed dramatically since I’d left it. Imagine that. Well, not too hard to imagine when my sales calls had changed from face to face meetings to internet communication. I’d been sending off PDF’s of products instead of having to appear with product samples, so why wouldn’t the world of writing change as well?

What changed the world of writing drastically was Amazon and eReaders. It took me some time to realize that. I had to learn about Search Engine Optimization, SEO, and keywords that make Amazon’s algorithms put my works in front of its readers and get purchased.

Was it hard? Absolutely. I started my writing journey in 2011, first by relearning how to write good fiction by taking a multitude of courses and reading books, then by writing numerous stories that my beta readers thought stunk like ripe cheese. I have great beta readers.

I was the old guy in the back of the class. There were numerous younger people, mostly female, writing vampire stories and things with people who were dead but somehow moved around and ate people with their blunt teeth. I stuck to my fiction.

I would come up with a book from that class. I wrote only the first chapter of it. It was about a Polar Bear finding a dead body in an oil camp, I called it Polar Bear Dawn. The young people in the class called my reading, gnarly.

I published that book on Amazon. It went nowhere. Well, it did go somewhere. It went to the very bottom of the Thriller and Mysteries category. It would take four more years, three more novels, two novellas, and a short story, none of them finding much success for me to finally throw up my hands in frustration and wonder what the hell was I doing?

I could have been playing more bad golf, learning to play bridge, I hate bridge, or learning to make pottery, I have the same feeling on pottery. I wondered why I was spending this time writing when I was getting nothing from it. No sales, no reviews, and I could hardly pay for my next book to be edited.

Then, in the mystery of Cyberspace, where I read about and took a course in marketing on this fascinating thing called the web, I found out something special.I put my first book for free on Amazon and every other book site I could find. Let the world find it. Let them try it, read it, see if they liked it.

It seemed simple. I tried it. I put Polar Bear Dawn for free everywhere. Yes, you could download it in England, Australian, America, Canada and all of Europe. There was no cost, just read it. I did, however, put the first three chapters of my next book, Pipeline Killers in there…well just in case they liked what they read.

What happened you ask? Well, Polar Bear Dawn got downloaded every day. It went from a lowly one million in the rankings to the upper one to two thousand. That’s actually a really good place to be on Amazon. Anywhere above 10,000 is kind of golden.

People liked the book. They left reviews, and they bought my other books. How about that? So, here I am, after only 4 years of publishing my first novel I actually make money as an author. Is it a lot of money? No, it isn’t. But it will pay for my next books to be published and for several bottles of good scotch per year. We retired people don’t need that much.

My days now are spent working in Cyberspace. I publish there, I market there, and I get paid there. Every day, I pull up my Amazon account and see how many books are purchased all over the world.Is it nice, yes, I could have tried to work for Walmart as a greeter…no scratch that, they would never have hired me.

If you want to read any of works and see how a retiree works in Cyberspace, you can look at my website at www.lylenicholson.com.
If you have comments or notes of your similar success in this strange field of writing, please contact me.

Trump, Russians,Ballet Boxes and Twitter. This is a Fiction Writers Dilema.

As a Canadian fiction writer, I admit I’m getting a bit addicted to watching the American Presidential Election. Never, in all my years have I seen such wonderful elements for a fiction novel.

A few weeks ago, Donald Trump claimed that the Presidential election would be rigged, then a week later, a report comes out of a Russian Internet hack of an American Electoral Polling station.

I sit back home , drinking my Canadian beer, eating my nacho chips and almost choke as this news comes out on CNN. Really? Seriously? This is what a fiction writer would do, the perfect story arch, as the protagonist, (Trump) is either thwarted or helped by the (antagonist) the Russians.

Meanwhile, all of this is playing out in 144 characters as if this were news that we should all believe.

The Elevator Pitch I would have given 10  years ago (had I known)

There is something we authors do, it’s called an elevator pitch. You imagine yourself in an elevator with a publisher or movie producer and you have only so many floors to pitch your story before they get out.

So, here goes;

Me: Mr. Publisher; great to meet you…

Publisher -get to the point, you’ve got 5 floors.

Me,(audible gulp), okay, a presidential race in  the future in America.A dark horse candidate enters. He’s a businessman.

Publisher – a successful one?

Me. Well…sort of, he’s done all these casinos and hotels, some go bankrupt, but he’s done this great reality T.V show and a  Ms America Pagent.

Publisher. I’m not seeing it. How is this believable?

Me. He abuses everyone.

Publisher. He what now?

Me. He calls Mexican and Muslims out, gets down on them, tells everyone they’re rapist and terrorist.

Publisher. the Mexicans are terrorist?

Me. No, sorry, the Mexicans are the rapist, the Muslims are the terrorists.

Publisher. I’m finding this offensive, my wife is Mexican.

Me. Sorry…I, ah, well thats how the story goes.

Publisher. I don’s see anyone buying this.

Me. It’s fiction sir…it’s a futuristic novel.

Publisher. Nah, I don’t see the market in a novel like this. See yah.

The door opens. The publisher walks out and I’m left there mouthing…but what if I have him win?

To those of you Americans who are reading this and love Trump, my apologies, and to you who hate him, I offer the same.

The key element is, as a fictional character, Trump is a dream to any writer who wants someone who would galvanize the left and the right.

I have only the election movies, the Manchurian Candidate or the Ides of March to compare, and quite frankly, none of these come close to what’s going on.

I’m sure the non-fiction writers will have a field day trying to assess how all of this came about, and how a reality star Billionaire with multiple wives, and bankruptcies  could galvanize a nation.

None of that is for me to decide. I’m mostly a fiction writer, and I’ve never seen such great theatre playing out before me.

Again, my apologies to all those offended by this, however, if you found some humor in it, that’s what I write. You’ll find the first three chapters of my novels at www.lylenicholson.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump World. How would fiction writers describe this?

I have no idea if Donald Trump will become the Republican Candidate or if he will be elected as the next President of the United States.

I am a Canadian. Along with 35 million others up here, we look vicariously at the dog fight that is taking place in the United States. I believe it’s called an election.

In between our frequent spring snow storms in Eastern Canada and the thawing hockey rinks in Western Canada, American politics is better than watching a slow hockey match with no fights breaking out.

So what if the Donald, as some like to him, does get in?  The stars align for him this time and he throws enough dirt at Hillary Clinton to get into the big office?

I’m not a politician, but I am a fiction writer. We fiction writers have been writing alternate universes for the world, the USA, and some have even come up with alternates for Canada.

Some would ask, that if Canada became a strange new republic, who would care. Or, more importantly, who would notice? America, as the largest economy and with the greatest military (Russia and China will disagree,) is the country that everyone notices.

There are several fictional novels about new republics in America and North America. One of the earliest was Robert A. Heinlen. His story, If this goes on, was about what might happen to Christianity in the USA, given mass communications and a hysterical population. In the book, the borders with both Canada and Mexico were blocked.

Margaret Atwood wrote a book, The Handmaidens Tale, that was made into a movie with Robert Duval. Atwood’s story was of a totalitarian Christian Theocracy. Her heroine finally escapes and makes it past the blockades to Canada. The rebels revolt to take over the dictators.

We’ve also had the Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen struggles to survive amidst the ruins of North America where only the Capital (a place reminiscent of ancient Rome) has plenty and the districts struggle to live.

The famous Isaac Asimov, in his The Foundation Trilogy, writes of a being called the Mule, who is genetically altered and can overcome the minds of others. He almost takes over the universe.

So, there you have it. Four other writers who’ve written about alternate worlds when someone or some new force come into play. What would my story of a Trump World be?

Trump World 2017

Donald Trump takes office January 2017. He immediately asks Congress to invade Iran, Syria and just about any other Arab country that he dislikes. They refuse. He yells, “You’re Fired.”

This doesn’t work for President Trump. He realizes he can’t fire Congress or the Senate or anyone else except his own staff. Someone forgot to tell him that at his briefing. He calls his minions. His great horde of followers who love him. They take up arms, as American’s has more weapons at home than most other countries do in their army, they form an army and storm the capital.

The American Army does nothing to stop the rabble. The half of the army that is Republican stops the other half that is Democrats from intervening. President Trump is now in charge. He’s going to get things done.

He throws up walls between Mexico to stop illegal immigrants. He throws up a wall across Canada to stop terrorist Muslims from creeping in and he throws up huge trade tariffs on Chinese goods so America can make all the things in America and everyone will have a job.

In six moths a problem develops. No Mexican’s illegals mean that the hotels aren’t getting cleaned. No one is picking the fruit or working in the meat packing plants. This work somehow is too hard for regular Americans.

China retaliates the high tariffs on their goods by shipping everything at cut rates to Russia and India. America finds they are can’t make anything for as cheap as China made them and they miss their cell phones.They start to protest outside the White House. Trump wants everyone shot.

Even the Republican Army has a problem with shooting their own citizens. A groundswell of  everyone with a small amount of common sense starts to revolt.The economy is in ruins and everyone is mad at everyone else. America is not great – it’s just angry.

Trump sees the writing on the wall. He abdicates the Oval Office and makes a run for it. He sets up in a small Carribean island with several of his faithful and starts another reality T.V. series.

Does this sound crazy. Silly? What would you write? Do you believe that Trumps world would be amazing? Go ahead then – write it. Do you think it would be worse? Go ahead and write that.

I wrote mine in about 250 to 280 words. This was just off the top of my head from watching the current news. Do I believe any of it? Not really. I’m just having fun with fiction. And if we can’t do that with words, then what are words for?

I wish all of you happy writing and reading and look forward to seeing some of your stories.