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.

For 2016, how about forgetting goals, and resolve to push your boundaries.

I know every year, we all do the same thing. We make some goals. We are going to get richer, thinner, smarter or come up with a way to make our life better. All the books and all the pundits tell us that goal setting is the one thing that will help us.

Great. You set some goals, some pretty big ones, where you’re going to lose all that weight that has been magically appearing around your middle, you’ll take that course, and get around to decluttering your life – in essence, a magical new you.

The problem is, and we all see this. By this time next year, you’re writing  the same goals. Somehow, those pesky pounds fell off then jumped back on. You find you’re no wealthier, and the magical new you faded sometime in June.

So, what if you just resolved to make little changes. Things that would stick? The reason I’m putting this out there, in the past year I resolved to just make small changes. I wrote just a little more every day, and I submitted some of my work to a National Newspaper.

Strange thing was, I ended up finishing another novel, and getting an essay published in the Globe and Mail. I hardly felt like I did anything strenuous. I just added a bit more effort and pushed my own boundaries.

I heard this story of a man who was extremely overweight and unhappy with his life. One day he walked out his front door and walked around the block. It was a struggle. He continued the next day and the next until he was walking a mile every day. Then two miles. He lost all his weight and felt wonderful. But he’d done it in small steps. Not by trying to jog three miles a day.

For those who are  amazed at the world of writing. No writer completes a book in a day, a week or even in a month. They may do a short story in that time or they may pound out a first draft of a novel in a month, but then they go over it, painstakingly word by word and sentence by sentence until it’s finished.

They may have a goal of a short story or a novel, but to get there, they need to push their boundaries and personal limits each day.

I also participate in road bike racing. We have these 90 and 100-kilometer rides that we do with large groups. To get to a 100-kilometer bike ride you start with a 25, then you push it to 35 and then 50. All the time you’re pushing your limits of endurance on the bike.

There are some road bikers that call this pushing the pain. If you can’t take the pain that your body is going through after a solid three hours on the bike, you’ll never make the four hours it takes for the race.

This, indeed, is pushing boundaries. However, to get there, you make small steps and before long, there you are at the finish line.

So, if you’re like me, and you’re tired of writing those lofty goals and seeing them crumble and wonder what happened? Try small steps. See what your boundaries are, then push them out a bit. Walk a bit further if you want to get healthy, write a bit more and submit more if you want to be a writer.

We all know what our goals are. We just don’t know how far we can push our boundaries until we try. I wish all of you happy reading, writing, and a new boundary by the end of the year.