One cannot help but reminisce this time of year. The end of the year makes you think of everything that happened and that you did not achieve in the ending year. The new year entices you with endless possibilities. This year I am thinking a lot about books and writing. I made the serious, and somewhat terrifying, step this year of quitting my day job. My goal is for 2018 to be all about growing with my passion and creating new income streams as a result.
Quite unrelated in many respects, I find myself thinking a lot about the books that have shaped me up to this point. I have always been a book lover. The first chapter book I read was Charlotte’s Web. I believe I was in first grade. I cannot remember exactly how old I was. What I do remember vividly is how excited I was to be transformed into a new world and the intoxicating power of words. I sat on my bed missing dinner and whatever my family was watching on television, completely engrossed in the world opening around me.
I was utterly devastated when I finished the book. Everyone knows how it ends, but as a child I was not prepared to deal with such a catastrophe. At the same time, I was overjoyed at the accomplishment of reading such a big book by myself. I ran around the house telling my family what I had done and that I was going to be a writer. I began writing that day and have never stopped.
While Charlotte’s Web was my first, my favorite children’s chapter books were the Chester Cricket and His Friends Series by George Selden and Garth Williams. A profound mentor and teacher read The Cricket in Times Square to my class with the intention of instilling a love for writing and for reading. I do not know if any of the other students were touched, but I was deeply moved. I hated for the story to end. To my great delight, my teacher told us that there were additional books that carried on the story. A sequel book? I had never imagined such a wonderful prospect before.
I read as many of the books as I could find, which was not as easy then in a rural elementary school. My love of reading was cemented. I could not help but envision the wonderful series of books I would ultimately write.
Writing a series has always been my intention. As I grew older, and then older still, I have struggled with focus. Even when I start a story I love, such as when writing Getting Home, I find myself telling only a finite part of the character’s life. I can only tell one story before my mind is off chasing another character. Still, the desire is strong with me to this day. I am rereading the Anne of Green Gables books in an attempt to remind myself why I love series books so much. I also am hoping to teach myself that not every part of a protagonist’s story must have huge, earth altering events. It is good to write about some of the mundane events that provide additional color and substance to the tale.
As you can see from this simple blog post, my mind tends to run in multiple directions at the same time. My intention was to write about The Cricket in Times Square and how that series changed my view of reading and writing. My mind had other ideas and so this wandering post was formed.
All three of the books I have mentioned are excellent. If you have children, I highly recommend all of them. Although I love them all, I must be partial. The Chester Cricket Series is and always will be my favorite.
Did you have a series that you particularly loved or that your children love today? If so, please leave your comments below.
If we keep our minds open, everything that happens in our lives teaches us valuable life lessons. Great things, bad things, mediocre things – each has its own type of life lesson to teach.
I’ve Learned is a life lesson series born from little scraps of paper I have scribbled on and collected over the year. In each post, the main lesson is discussed with real life examples from my personal life.
The series kicks off here with Lesson 1. It’s an important life lesson to learn. If everyone tried to #BeTheGood, so many other painful lessons would not be needed.
Lesson 1: I’ve learned to be the good I want to see in the world. #BeTheGood
Seeing The Wrong
As much as I try to be a good and positive person, I cannot help but admit that I have some character flaws. I love to rant, to give advice and to point out mistakes. Well, really the last one is more of an obsession/compulsion rather than something I love.
Ask anyone that knows me well, I tend to be too vocal about the wrongs I see around me. I’m the crazy guy sitting near you at a conference or seminar. When the speaker mispronounces a word, I’m the one that has to say it correctly outline.
You know me. You will likely turn and give me a disapproving. On the inside, though, you are applauding me internally because you also caught the mistake.
Disclosure:This post contains affiliate links. Any purchase made through such links will award me a small commission (or referral fee), at no extra cost for you.
Set The Example
Life has taught me that the best way to affect real change in the world around me is to set the example. Telling someone to do something can be effective. Showing them how to do it makes it more likely they will later do it themselves.
Many Christians will regard this as the Golden Rule, and surely it does match Jesus’ life lesson words found in the Bible at Matthew 7:12 –
“All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them.”
What would the world look like if everyone applied this one simple rule? I mean really applied. There would be no political parties tearing each other apart. Race would never be an issue. Mass shootings and terrorism would not exist.
I can’t help but think that if this one simple rule were followed, the world would be a very different place.
Look through the news headlines on any given day. Imagine how the stories would have changed if this was applied by all.
Hearing and Doing
We hear the Golden Rule repeated often. Sometimes we are sitting attentively on Sunday morning while the Bible is read. At other times, the message is conveyed in popular films likePay It Forward or the Love Comes Softlyseries or shows likeWhen Calls the Heart. (All three are excellent if you haven’t seen them already. I especially like When Calls the Heart.)
How, though, can you and I really apply this concept?
One way to apply this life lesson is to lookfor ways to help others.
Are you walking in or out of a store or business? If others are nearby, take a moment and hold the door for them.
Do you see the older woman loading her car with groceries? Offer to return her shopping cart for her.
Do you have a friend suffering a need but unwilling to ask for help? Give some help anyway.
Creating positive change in the world is about action and not intention. Yes, it is important to make sure we are not doing bad things or making the lives of other worse. Equally important, though, is to make sure we are actively seeking ways to make the world a better place.
Start Where You Are
Look around the area you are right now, whether at home or in public somewhere. Is there something on the floor or ground that needs to be picked up and thrown away? Is there someone nearby that is having a bad day and needs a smile or a hug? (It’s probably not a good idea to go around hugging strangers, but you get the general idea.)
At home, is there something that needs to be done, like taking out the garbage, washing the dishes or doing some laundry? Even if it is not something that it your responsibility, #BeTheGood and do something to help out.
One of the things that had made my dear wife the most happy was when she came home after a long day and found I had surprised her by making dinner or finishing the laundry. Those gifts meant more to her than any jewelry, flowers or chocolate ever did.
Of course, none of us can force others to change. Any attempt at change will only be temporary if it is not in the individual’s heart. So, I challenge each of you as I challenge myself, #BeTheGood you want to see in the world. Do something today to make someone’s life better or easier.
Wouldn’t it be great if #BeTheGood were the biggest trending hashtag of the year? And wouldn’t it be even better if that was because people were not only using the hashtag, but more importantly, were creating change in the world by the good they are doing? After you have done your good for today, come back and leave a comment of your experience to encourage the rest of us to also #BeTheGood.
The one thing I love most about blogging is that I am constantly being presented with new and exciting ideas – ideas that would never have entered my head in a million years. Are you dealing with writer’s block? For my Writer Wednesday post this week I am sharing what may well be the solution you need. Click through and read the post, give it a try, and come back to this page and share your results. I look forward to hearing from you.
Wolfe Butler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
Happy Monday! Not to start on a down note, but the last week has been especially hard for me. I was still doing a little consulting work for the financial services company I left in December. That filled up all five days of last week. I have set up new Pinterest and Instagram accounts. I am trying to get a freelance writing and virtual assistant business off the ground. I am working on two novels. And I have been reading excessively on everything from blogging tips and SEO to work-at-home business set-up and the two books I am currently reviewing. Silly me, I thought I was going to be less busy when I quit my traditional job.
Over the past few weeks I have mentioned how I have been reading everything I can get my hands on. Who needs sleep when there is reading to be done? I have visited hundreds of blogs, marketing sites and retailers geared toward bloggers and writers. Yes, at times I can be a little obsessive, but I really do expect my writing and blog to be my only source of income at some point in the near future. It is important to me to have as much wisdom as I can get.
With all these site visits, I found myself getting discouraged. There are a lot of great and well-written sites. Many are aesthetically pleasing with excellent graphic images and engaging narratives. They have given me several ideas for updating this site in the coming weeks. What was discouraging to me, though, was the overwhelming abundance of “Buy Me” links and “Get this FREE with your email subscription.” We all must pay the bills. I do have an email capture on some of my pages and hope to develop a large email following in time. I am not currently selling any products, except for my book, Getting Home, on Amazon. Hence, the need to add affiliate links to keep this blog up and running.
I dove into several of the sites that were most compelling. Some have free information that they send you over the course of days or weeks. I am probably getting 30-40 emails a day now and at this rate will never read them all in my lifetime. Most want you to buy something, and generally from the very first page. I admire that. If someone worked hard on putting together an eBook or report that can help me, I expect them to get paid for their time and effort. However, some of these eBooks, though only 30-100 pages, are $80-$100 or more. Ouch. Did I happen to mention that I am no longer working and have NO INCOME at this point?
A few of the posts were so well written and the site so attractive that I did purchase a couple of said eBooks. I am getting a lot of good information out of most of the ones I did purchase.
Still, as great as these purchases are, the onslaught of daily emails from each site and the constant, “Now you must buy more if you want the rest of the story,” has really been a sucker punch to me. I started with zero income, spent quite a bit at this point, and now I need to buy more? And with no guarantee that what is in your next eBook is going to benefit me at all?
At the same time that I exploring all these sites, I was corresponding with another writer about writing a review for his fiction book. I noticed it was available through Kindle Unlimited. I decided to go ahead and sign up for the free 30-day trial, so I could get his book instantly and get to work reading it.
A few days later, and by mistake or providence, I am not sure, but I stumbled upon one of the books I had almost purchased from another site. And it was also available on Kindle Unlimited. I clicked on it and started reading it immediately. I then grabbed another and another. To date I have read a number of books, in addition to the one book I signed up for in the first place, and I am still in my 30-day free trial. I am going to list some of my favorites at the end of this post.
Yes, I said free
Now before I start getting negative comments about encouraging my readers to get books through Kindle Unlimited rather than directly from the author blog, let me explain. First, please try to relax. Yes, initially the author of said eBook might get a lower royalty through Amazon. The author only gets paid for the pages of the book that is read. On the plus side, if the reader enjoys the book and gives a positive review, that may move hundreds or thousands of other Amazon customers to try your book. I did not see much for reviews on most of the blogs I visited, and the ones that did have reviews, there was no way to determine if they were legit or written by the blog owner.
It is also my thought process that if I read your book through Kindle and enjoy it, I may be more likely to try another of your books. If I spend too much money on a book with little to no value on your website, well then not only will I not buy any more books, I am also the type of person that will never visit your blog or social media posts again. I did purchase a couple of items that are available through Amazon and directly through a blog. The result? They are the exact same books. Page for page.
I do not intend to list all of the books I have purchased or reviewed here. Some, sad to say, were absolutely awful. They were clearly first-draft books that were thrown up quickly to hopefully produce sales. The layouts were sloppy, the grammar atrocious and the spelling mistakes make it appear that not even a common word processor spellcheck was used. I am furious that I paid blog price for some of these items.
Another large advantage I am enjoying with Kindle Unlimited is that most of the eBooks I purchased directly from blogs are in PDF format, and several are hard to read productions. The Kindle books are available on all my Kindle connected devices. That means I can add the book and start reading in on my laptop and then later continue reading the same book on my phone or tablet. The Kindle app has a feature that it can automatically sync your progress, so you are always brought back to the right starting point regardless of device. I absolutely love this option.
Again, for the naysayers, I want to reiterate that reading a book through Kindle Unlimited does not hurt the author. The author is paid for each page read by each KU reader. I am much more likely to give your book a chance if I know I don’t have to lay out a bunch of money for something that I might hate.
This whole world of Kindle Unlimited has excited me so much that I have already decided that the eBooks I am currently working on will be available exclusively through Kindle Unlimited. Yes, I do stand to make a higher per purchase profit by selling directly, but that also means I need to set up my site to sell items and accept payment. Likely I will need some sort of merchant account to process payments and that is just one more thing for me to have to manage in a week that is already way too short on hours.
My intention in starting this post was not to write an ad for Amazon. As the words started to flow, though, it became more apparent to me just how much I am enjoying my Kindle Unlimited membership. Oh, and the best part? As I already mentioned, I am still in my first 30-day free trial. That means that so far, I have paid NOTHING for this investment that has brought so much knowledge and wisdom into my life.
Thank you for visiting my blog today. I hope I have not upset anyone. One of my biggest life goals is to help nurture and advance fellow writers and artists. If you feel I have done you a disservice, please feel free to contact me. Or, better yet, if you are happy I have mentioned your book, please post a comment below to let us know you were here.
Click over to Amazon to get your Free Month of Kindle Unlimited. There is so much to learn!
Until next time…
Here are a couple of the books I have enjoyed so far:
Hello readers. I have decided to use Wednesdays to highlight other writers and bloggers that have written posts that really resonated with me. I really enjoyed this post by Ryann the Reader. I really needed these words this week when I am feeling a little, okay more than a little, overwhelmed by all the new changes in my life. These are some great tips. Enjoy!
Happy Friday everybody! I’m back with a bit more advice for anyone just starting their blog. This week’s advice focuses on something that still makes me feel like a brand new blogger sometimes, and that is my blog posts! Sometimes it’s really hard to know when or what to post, or if a draft is […]
As a new blogger, it’s sometimes hard to find your way. Many posts will tell you about an exciting and unbelievable blogger experience. The truth is that most of those posts are unbelievable because they are not true.
This blog is taking a different route. I will be sharing my blogger experience as it happens. The good, the bad and the ugly. Hopefully not too much ugly.
In October 2017, I decided that it was time to change my life. I had a job that was creating much more stress than it was worth. I was missing leisure time with family and friends due to demands from said job. My overall joy in life was largely lacking.
What was probably an insane decision, I set out to change everything. I dusted off the novel I had been working on periodically over that last fifteen years and set about self-publishing on Amazon. I put a plan in motion to quit my job, to start freelancing and created a blog. This is my blogger experience.
Disclaimer: This site is a participant in the Amazon Services, LLC. Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This post contains affiliate links. Any purchase made through such links will award me a small commission, at no extra cost for you. It’s how I keep the lights on. I only promote products that I use and have benefitted from.
Let me mention here that I was in the position to quit my job and have no income for a few months. While I hope that this turns into a record-setting journey, I cannot say with certainty that everyone will have the same experience.
I have mentioned before that I thought I was ready to become a blogger and self-published author. As with most things in life, there is a big difference between planning and practicing. Most days I feel like I have done everything wrong. I can see progress, though, and my vision of the future is bright.
Prior to November, I was not a social media person. However, social media is a necessary evil in the world of self-publishing and the lifeblood of promoting a blog.
Diving Into Social Media
Since the beginning of November, I have dove headlong into my blogger experience and social media. I created accounts with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram. That alone has been a major learning experience but a necessary part of any blogger experience.
I think I am doing something right as I am up to 4600 Twitter followers. I have 180 likes for my Facebook page, 74 followers on Instagram and 41 followers on my blog.
Those numbers may not seem impressive, but since all of those numbers were zero just two months ago, I am pretty happy with the results.
I am a numbers guy. Working in financial services for the last twenty years has put my mind in constant numbers mode. I am constantly thinking of rate of return and tracking progress. Numbers will continue to be an important part of my blogger experience.
Every day I am figuring out things to improve my online presence. I decided to write a post about my progress so you can go along with me on my journey. I intend to update my progress at least once a month.
I am doing this for two reasons.
I want to have a written record of my journey. I could put everything in my personal journal, but why not put it out there for the whole world to see? Hopefully my words will help someone else.
Two, I have read dozens of blogs of how individuals are making thousands of dollars a month from their blogs. I want to believe they are all true, but the skeptic inside me is not sure.
I am also noticing that most bloggers are not listing their progress until they are 6, 12 or even 24 months in. What happened at the beginning of their journey? I would like to have those numbers so I can see where I compare.
Should I be happy with 4600 Twitter followers or should I have 46,000 at this point? Is 200 page views for the first full month of a blog a good number or sadly lacking? Should I be expecting any income from affiliate marketing?
I did not imagine I would make anything from my blog the first few months. I was not far off. I think I am up to about $5.00 earned from all sources combined for the past 60 days, counting all income sources.
Please note that is earned so I have not even received that amount as of today. If I were to break that down to the hours I have put in, I am making less than $0.01/working hour. At this rate I should be living on the street by summer.
With any building project, a good foundation is the key to success and stability. I would say I am easily putting in 60-80 hours per week. Knowing that things will not stay at this magnitude, I am willing to put in the time and effort now.
About half of my time has been spent on learning, reading advice, watching videos and corresponding with other writers and bloggers. If knowledge is power, I intend to have superhero strength.
Ultimately, my journey is my journey. No two people have the same journey in any endeavor. Even what I will be sharing here will not necessarily be your journey. In any case, let’s take the journey together and see where it takes us.
If you a new to blogging, or maybe not so new, please share one of your blogger experience below.
What if zombies weren’t bad? How might the world change if they could be trained to work and be useful members of society? What would that world look like? Scott Bell’s Working Stiffs gives you a glimpse into that possible dystopian future.
Scott Bell’sWorking Stiffsis a new twist on the dystopian zombie genre. Rather than being created from the bite of another zombie, these zombies, called Revivants, are created by injected nanobots as a scientific solution to cheap and endless labor. Bodies of the recently deceased are reanimated to serve an abundance of manual labor tasks. The year 2051 is dark and gritty and not one you will want to live in but will enjoy visiting.
The book revolves around two characters, everyday man Joseph “Joe” Warren and Homeland Security Agent, Angel Ramirez.
Joe’s story is told from the first person. In his mid-twenties, Joe is a bit down on his luck. Due to the abundance of Revivants, he has been unable to find work for more than two years. Living in ratty government housing with his ailing girlfriend is a less than ideal life. In an attempt to better their situation, Joe is inadvertently tossed onto a whole new and often violent path.
Agent Ramirez is a corrupt and sadistic Homeland Agent. His tale unfolds in the third-person. Like most of the government, he is intent on keeping the country’s narrative away from the true happenings of everyday life and instead on what is beneficial to the government. Morally bankrupt, he is not afraid to hurt or kill anyone in the path to his goal.
The words flow easily with realistic dialogue and phonetically written accents. Though I did not always understand every word of some of the characters, I was able to hear the individual accents of characters from different ethnicities.
Many of the characters, Millie, John and Alex, to name a few, are lovable and unique. The world of the book is created with enough detail to create a clear image in your mind’s eye without so much as to be exhaustive.
The 80’s child in me enjoyed a lot of the one-liners and quips echoing the bygone decade, such as, “Rodents of Unusual Size.” Additional notations to more recent years are equally enjoyable. I guess I am a bit of a pop culture junkie myself.
Joe’s humor, though more than a bit snarky and often crude and juvenile, did lead to some laugh-out-loud moments. In the beginning, one of the zombies, named Larry, was programed with a little of a sense of humor and repeatedly says, “Braaains!” much to Joe’s annoyance. A bit later someone sarcastically refers to hiring a comedian and Joe says, “You should meet Larry.”
The Not So Good
There was some difficulty on my part in getting through the plethora of expletives, especially in the first third or so of the book. In one section, I noted curse words or vulgar references in almost every line.
Every good book should have color in its dialogue and narrative, but the superabundance in Working Stiffs was a little overwhelming at time for this reader. Had I not agreed to write a review, I may have stopped reading altogether.
I also had a little trouble with many of the pop culture references. While I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, I did find it a bit hard to believe that today’s references would still be as relevant in 2051, especially to someone then in their twenties.
I enjoyed the second half of the book much better than the first and am glad I continued reading. The story really seems to find its way and smooth out the rough edges felt in the opening chapters. Joe becomes the friend you love to hate, and Agent Ramirez the malicious villain that grows worse with each chapter.
Even though there were aspects that I did not enjoy, in the endWorking Stiffsis well-written and easy to read. Despite myself, I was not ready for it to end. If there is a sequel, and a big part of me sincerely hopes there will be, it will be added to my reading queue.
To rate this title on a five-point scale, I would give it 3.75.
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Years ago, I read an illustration about our own perceived intelligence. I cannot remember it verbatim, but to briefly paraphrase it said, as teenagers we tend to think that we know everything. In our twenties and thirties, we still think we know most everything but also start to see the need to get some instruction from others. By middle age we realize we only know half the things we need to know. And finally, in old age, we realize that we know nothing or at least very little in the grand scheme of things.
I am not an old man, at least from my perspective. A sixteen or twenty-year-old might view me that way, but I am determined that I am not old. It’s the whole, “Build it and they will come” mentality. If only that worked.
Up until now, I have always considered myself a relatively intelligent man. I keep up with current events and have always been an avid reader. In this digital age, I still prefer to read my news or instruction manuals rather than watch videos. Everyday I make it a point to learn at least one new thing and am always looking for ways to improve myself.
Over the last few years, it has become increasingly more obvious that in reality, I know almost nothing. Never has this truth shined brighter than the last couple months of starting a blog and self-publishing a book. All my dear writer friends, why didn’t you warn me? As I read more blogs, interact with more writers and consider their work, I feel overwhelmingly unqualified and outclassed.
I did not just jump into blogging and self-publishing without any guidance or forethought. I read blogging advice for several years before finally committing and starting one of my own. I perused publishing and writing journals for years contemplating publishing options, comparing traditional to self-published routes, whether to get an agent or editor or not. I felt like I had done all my research and was prepared to move forward. Wrong!
Jumping into the arena, or fire as it might be, and getting started has revealed a whole world of things I never thought to include in my preparations. There have been hundreds of questions that I did not know to ask. Should you monetize your site? How do you keep a posting schedule? What social media sites should you use? What should you be posting on them? How should you interact with your followers? How often? And on and on and on. In addition, there have been systems and procedures that I did not know to implement and unexpected expenses I was not fully prepared for. Add to the fact that I was still working a full-time day job for the first two months, and it is amazing that I have any hair on the top of my head. Although it has grown noticeably grayer in the last two months.
I had been in my prior career field for 18 years before decided to leave and pursue writing full-time. I was the go-to person for a lot of my colleagues because I had put in the time and was constantly working on learning more and improving myself. To go from a seasoned veteran to a flailing newbie has been a true test of my mettle.
Please do not misunderstand me. This is an amazing experience and a dream come true. I worked so hard for so many years so that in time I could devote myself to my writing passion. Never was I so naïve as to imagine that this would be a seamless and painless transition. Still, to interact with all the amazing writers I have had the pleasure to interact with, has not only made me feel like I am out of my depth, but that I need to get out of that Olympic pool and go back to the kiddie pool. Probably floaties would not be a bad idea while I am at it.
On the flip side, oneamazing, heart-warming and completely unexpected lesson I am learning is that writers are true kindred spirits. We are all laboring to bring our wordy offspring into this world. It brightens my day to get on social media and see how writers are constantly supporting other writers, supporting me. In the financial world, it was every man for himself. This sense of community and support has been my biggest buoy to keep afloat as the waves of what I don’t know keep crashing over me. My hope is that in a year or two or five that I will be the veteran writer, blogger and self-publisher that is out in the world encouraging others and convincing them to continue forward.
As I tend to do, I have again gotten completely off track. My life lesson learned is that the older I get, the more I recognize just how much I do not know. I am trying to own that and seek guidance from as many sources as I can find. I will never know everything, but tomorrow I will know more than I did today.
A presence near
The heart sincere
Goodbye to fear
Home is here
A man a soul
A worthwhile goal
Looks black as coal
Fits the role
The burning fire
A living wire
Children to sire
Behind a veil
The heart will wale
Break free from jail
Meant to fail
Not one but two
And much is due
You thought you knew
If so, who?
Author’s Note: We are all more than one person. At the very least we are two: the one we present to the world and the one we are deep inside. Most of us are much more than two as we have a “person” for each part of our life. Family, friend, work, social, parent, strangers… Not everyone sees the same person when they look at us. Indeed, we do not present the same person to each person we meet.
This poem was written in my late teens, early twenties when I was trying to figure out primarily what person I was going to be. I hope you enjoy.
If you enjoyed this poem, please share it with others.