Sunday, January 27, 2019

2019: Let's launch a pen name

Every year I sit down and make some goals for this whole publishing thing. Each year they involve some level of increased production and better marketing. This year's no different. I have some pretty aggressive publishing goals, and I have some marketing goals that will keep me busy. But the biggest thing that's going to change in 2019 is that not everything written by me is going to have my name on it, because I'm launching a pen name. 

There are a couple reasons for this. Part of it comes down to marketing. I have built the Jarrett Rush brand around near-future, on-Earth speculative fiction. The sci-fi I write under my real name isn't happening millennia from now. It doesn't have space ships or alien overlords. I write monster stories under my own name. I write zombie stories under my own name. The people who red those stories don't necessarily read this new stuff I'm writing. This stuff is all spaceships and blasters. It's fun, and I love it. But promoting it to the people who read the stuff I write as Jarrett isn't going to drive sales and could confuse the book store algorithms that help sell books for you. So, to avoid that unhelpful cross pollination of audiences, I'm going to publish this new stuff under a new name.

Second reason: I started this publishing journey eight years ago this coming September. It's been fun, but it hasn't been profitable. I make a few bucks a month from my stories, but I'm not by any reasonable measure successful with it. But, I think I could be. The problem has been that I've sort of done everything wrong. When I started years ago, there weren't a lot of best practices. It was still a little bit the wild west, and I missed all of the tricks then that people did to make their books successful. And they really were tricks, most of them. They were exploiting loop holes in the algorithms that Amazon and other stores quickly closed.

From that, some best practices emerged, those things that didn't exploit any funny way that books rankings or promotions were handled. These were just solid ways to run a business. None of them are overly genius, but I haven't ever implemented them fully. I feel like, and this is going to sound fairly cocky, that if I did those things, I could be successful doing that. And launching a pen name is a chance for me to test that. Things like writing in clearly defined markets (RIP, cyberpunk), establishing a newsletter early, launching books quickly, running ads properly. All of this is stuff I see other authors doing and finding.

I haven't decided whether or not to keep the name secret. Right now, I'm leaning that way, just for the sake of purity. The whole cross pollination thing I mentioned earlier. My plans for him (There's your one hint, the pen name is still male) are pretty aggressive. I want to write five serial novellas, three short stories that introduce the world, and one standalone story. That's nine pieces of fiction for this new name. 

It's kind of exciting for me personally. Like most writers, I have a lot of half started things on my hard drives. I didn't know where some of it was going. They were just stories that came to me, and I ran with them. Going back now, I see how they easily fit into the plans I have for this name. So, I'm not starting those none pieces from scratch. I actually have the first novella finished and am a good way into the second right now. I've also got a start on one of the stand alone shorts. It's kind of like God knew what he was doing when He gave me those stories when he did.

That doesn't mean I'm ignoring the series I've started under my Jarrett Rush name. I am planning on finishing the Rubble & Ruin series this year. There's one more book planned to wrap up that story. I also have more Jackson Cane stories planned. I think I can get those stories to start moving with a finished series and some smart advertising. And those stories are pretty short. I can write them quickly. 

I also want to write that third New Eden book to wrap up the main series. 

So, that's it. We'll say happy birthday to a new pen name in 2019. You'll also see me more here and on social media a bit more, specifically Facebook. I've got some ideas there too. I'm excited about this year, I think it has the potential to be a good one.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Cool Stuff I Found: Lo-fi and jazzy hip hop

I can't write in silence. It's weird. I blame my days working in a busy newsroom for the need for noise. It's why I listen to music now. Thing is I can't write to music with words. I suppose that those years listening to the commotion of a newsroom all the voices blended together, nothing indistinguishable.

For years, I've spent time tweaking Pandora stations and Spotify playlists full of trance-style dance music. Then I discovered lo-fi hip hop, and I had to tell you all about it. Even if you aren't a writer and just need something that can play in the background, this is it. Most of if it is jazzy piano or sax or trumpet over a hip hop beat. There's occasionally a vocal sample, but even that is super low key.

There are several channels filled with mixes on YouTube. My favorite so far is Fantastic Music, but there are others that have their own style. Here's a few of my favorites so far, but check them out for yourself.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Looking Back at 2017: New books, new baby, new job

If anyone were to use this blog as a way to keep up with me and my well-being, they'd genuinely have reason to ask "Did something happen to him?" Well, here I am raising my hand saying "I'm still here. I'm OK." (Coincidentally, Pearl Jam's Alive is playing on Spotify right now.)

And, truthfully, if you judge my year based on the posts live on the blog right now it looks bad. But reality is that you're missing a few dozen from January to June. I serially published a book here at the beginning of the year but had to take those posts down to make the book part of the Kindle Unlimited program. I'm a very, very small fish in Amazon's very, very big pond, but I didn't want to get sideways with the 800-pound gorilla of the book publishing industry.


That book, by the way, Rubble and Ruin: Welcome to the End, is by far my most successful publication to date. It's sold about 150 copies so far, and it's been read by about as many Kindle Unlimited readers. I've made twice as much from that one book as I've made from everything else.

Rubble and Ruin was my only book published in 2017, but it was one of three books written this year. I've also written the follow-up, the next part of Mac and Caroline's story. It's been edited, I just need to take another pass through it and it should be ready for publication in January. 

There's also a book, the first in a series, about the crew of a space station that's edited and ready to go. And I'm about 10,000 words into a space adventure story about a group of freelance pirates and their semi-sentient ship. It's a fun story so far. I think you'll like it. Both of these should publish in the first part of 2018. I have a plan for next year, but I'll write more about that in another post.


On a personal note, our family of four became a family of five this year. And I became a little less outnumbered. We welcomed a son, Liam, to the family in mid-November. He's amazing so far, but I think all of my kids are. His sisters love him more than I thought they could. They are great with him. Mom is ecstatic. So is dad. Gina and I had always talked about having three kids, but actually having a third was something we wrestled with. We have two absolutely perfect girls. Were we pushing our luck trying to have one more? We decided that we didn't care. We've always seen our version of the Rush family as a party of five, and we trusted God. So we went for it, and I'm glad we did. Liam feels like he was the last piece of our puzzle. We're complete now. 


Because life wasn't chaotic enough with the holidays and a new baby, I left my job of almost four years and started a new one the week before Christmas. It's an amazing opportunity to combine everything I've done in my career so far into one job. I won't bore you with too many details, but I'm essentially getting to start a trade publication for a sector of the healthcare industry. I'm having to pull on some rusty journalism levers, and that's fun to do again. But I'm also taking some of the marketing tricks and tactics I've learned over the last six years to both bring readers and to build email lists that we can then eventually monetize. It's still very new, but it's also a lot of fun. I'm getting to envision what this publication actually looks like and how it operates. So, all of those things that I've suggested clients try over the last few years I can actually put into place. So I'll either prove myself a genius or a fool.

I think that's it. I've been gone a while from here, but I think I've got you all caught up now. Quickly, if you were one of the people who bought Rubble and Ruin, thanks. That book has been a fun ride so far. And like I mentioned briefly above, I've got some plans for 2018. Plans that I think are doable assuming life doesn't throw me some unexpected curve balls. I'll share those later this week or early next.

Until then, have a blessed end to 2017 and a wonderful start to 2018.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Rubble and Ruin:Welcome to the End is live now!

This is how I wanted to end the Rubble and Ruin serial experiment, with an announcement that the
ebook was live the week after the final installment went up. And, today, that's what I'm able to do. It took a lot of work during a busy week at the day job, but the book is live. At Amazon at least. I've still got some work to do to get it ready for the other retailers, but Amazon is the giant. It was a priority to get it listed there. In the middle of the night last night that happened.

So, like I've been mentioning as we were publishing the individual installments, if you enjoyed the story I'd appreciate you picking up a copy. It won't cost you much, at least through the weekend. It's launching at 99 cents so those of you here can get it cheap. After that the price goes up to $2.99.

Get it here now for less than a buck.

Thanks for sticking with us for about seven or eight months, however long it took us to get the 33 parts posted. It's been a fun experiment for me. Hopefully, you'll keep coming back to the blog. I'm going to drink the marketing Kool Aid that I sell to clients, and start posting here more often. We may even do another serial story.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Goals for 2017: Go for it

It's a new year. Time for new goals. I've done these posts in the past and they've always been very specific. I'll write this. I'll finish that. Very ambitious. Very foolhardy. Not this year. This year I'm resolving to have a new attitude.

It comes from two things. The first, I was watching The Wall the other night. It was on. I was ironing. Quick setup for the game. You answer questions. If you get them right you drop a ball down a Plinko-style board. There are slots at the bottom of the board that represent dollar amounts. Wherever the ball lands, you win that amount. Get the question wrong, drop the ball and lose whatever amount it lands in.

The contestant I was watching at the time had earned $1.34 million in winnings so far. He gets to the last question. He decides to drop three balls on the next question. get it right and he could add $3 million to his total. Get it wrong and he loses, but what are the chances of losing it all? Slim, right?

You can likely see where this is going. He gets it wrong. He drops three balls. They land in $1 million; $300,000; and $50,000. Total: $1.35 million.

He lost it all.

There's more to the game, and he still had a chance to win $100,000 or something, but I had to attend to something else. I don't know if he walked away a winner. But, seeing him lose all of the money, literally a million dollars, on one question was heartbreaking. I laughed that awkward laugh that comes out when you don't really know how to react to something. I felt awful for him.

But then the next day or so, I thought about him more. And what I thought was "Good for him." No, he didn't win the big money. But he didn't lose it either. It was never his. It was just numbers on a screen. But that attitude, the one that says "Go for it," is one that I admire. And it's one that I want to adopt for my writing life in 2017. It's one I should also adopt in the non-writing part of my life too.

This attitude shift came from not just seeing the show, but something else helped cement the idea for me. I am reading through the Book of Luke every morning. The other day I got to the verses where Jesus feeds the 5,000, and something kind of clicked for me. It wasn't just in my writing life either, but throughout everything. God can take whatever we have, no matter how small, and make it great. He takes a few loaves and a few fish and feeds thousands. If he can do that then he can take what I have, no matter what it is, and turn it into something. So, if that's the case, then why am I holding back in my writing life? Why am I not being like the guy on the game show and just going for it? Why am I not writing more and publishing more? Why am I not giving my writing and my ideas around publishing to God and just going for it. Trusting that he can take whatever I give him and make something with it.

So, for 2017, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to go for it, and trust that if I bring God something—anything—he'll be able to make something with it.

There you go. Publicly stated goals. Can't take them back now.

Took a bit of a break from the serial story over new years, but that'll be back Friday. And if you need to catch up, you can do that here. Until then, see you soon.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Storytelling lessons from my 4 year old

Ellie is 4 years old, and she's starting to tell coherent stories that she makes up on her own. We play a lot of pretend. I'm usually some superhero and she's a princess. Now, that princess usually has some kind of super power, so she's somewhat a princess in name only. But it's fun.

That playing pretend and storytelling is starting to bleed over into our night time routine, and it's actually teaching me a bit about my own storytelling. A good thing. Not going to complain, even if it was a bit unexpected.

A couple of examples:

I was putting her to bed one night in the last month or so, and she asked for a story. Like I mentioned, she's getting into superheroes. She's not a DC or Marvel girl. If they have a cape or a mask or a cool uniform then she's in. She really seems to like Captain America.

So, this night she asked me to tell her how he was born. So I tell her an abbreviated version of the origin story. Steve Rodgers. Scrawny kid in Brooklyn. Experiments. Boom. Captain America. It was a bit more dawn out than that, and in the middle of it she stopped me and said "Dad, this is boring. Add Elsa and Anna." So, I did.

Then the other night we are sitting in her room, and she tells me that she's going to tell me a story. It involves princesses (her and her sister) and a castle that I made up a couple of years ago. There's a tall tower, a windy staircase, and any time I tell her these stories their mom is making breakfast in the kitchen.

So, her story starts with the princesses waking up and going downstairs for breakfast. Then in the middle of breakfast the evil witch comes and turns her mom into a monster, dad into Captain America, but he's trapped in a closet. She and her sister both get changed into something else that's slipped my mind at the moment. But it was crazy. It made no sense, but she got so into the telling of it that I got wrapped up in the moment. It didn't matter that the logic didn't work. She was excited about it, and I wanted to hear what was next.

Now, here's the lesson, and this for me as much as anyone else.

Get out of your head when you tell stories. Let the story go where it wants to go.

Too often I'll have an idea and then hesitate when it comes time to write it down, either while outlining or drafting. I shouldn't do that. I should let the story go where it wants to go. Let my mind take it to places that may not make a whole lot of sense, because that's where the passion is. That's often where I do my best writing. It's when I've found the flow of the story, and I'm letting it wash around me, not bothering with thoughts of "Does this make sense?"

My favorite reading experiences are the ones where you can feel the author's passion for that particular tale. Yes, we all love our books or stories, but you can tell as a reader (at least I think you can) when a writer telling the story with passion. At least I feel like you can. There's more to the reading experience than just getting things from Point A to Point B. I really believe that passion comes from being fully in the story and letting it go where it wants to go.

Now, you can't necessarily make illogical jumps or ignore natural laws. But other than that, don't let those ideas that seem too weird or too unexpected die on your mental vine. Put them down. Let them run. See where they take you. You can always call them back in the editing process if you find they didn't work.

So, that's it. Storytelling lessons that I learned from my 4 year old. Hope it was helpful for you. It was for me.

Thanks, Ellie. Daddy loves you.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Fanning the flames -- 2 Timothy 1:6-7

It feels weird to talk about gifts or talents, to acknowledge that you think you're good at things. At least it does for me. I don't like talking about myself. Not at all. And saying that you think you are gifted in one way or another is definitely talking about yourself.

But just because we don't like to talk about it doesn't meant that we don't all have talents. We do. But reading through the Bible the other morning I came across a verse that challenged me, so thought I'd share it here. Faith is, after all, the third F in the tagline up top.

"6 For this reason I remind you to FAN INTO FLAME THE GIFT GOD, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline."

It's 2 Timothy 1:6-7, and the emphasis there is mine. And I know that how I'm reading it is not necessarily how Paul meant it when he wrote it, but this verse really hit me.

"Fan into flame the gift of God." 

For some reason, fire imagery has come up a lot in my work lately. I'm pretty sure I have some discussion of a fire being whipped into roaring flame in Digi City. And there's definitely similar imagery in the current WIP. So it's certainly something I've been thinking about. So maybe that's why the fanning into flame language struck me as I read.

This is kind of how I see the talents thing. When we are being formed God takes out his Holy Measuring Cup and gives us all an equal measure of everything that makes us human — kindness, love, compassion, etc ...  Then he looks at each of us individually and gives us a little extra in a few places. Those extra portions are our gifts and talents, and He has an expectation that we will take those and do something with them. That we won't waste them in the service of nothing.

Now, I don't think that we have to take those talents and use them specifically for church work or kingdom goals. We can use them in other ways. I do think — and this does feel weird to type — that one of my gifts is written communication. I'm good with the words. Or pretty good. Good enough for someone to pay me for them and for the clients I work with to be happy.

Still, I wonder, am I doing all I can with those gifts? I think about it often. Have I fanned the flames? Or am I letting them smolder, eventually to go out? 

I don't know that I've done all I can. I pray about it. I want to be a success as a writer. I want to use those talents for good things, but am I? I don't know. I'm not sure that anyone will ever feel like they've done everything they could with all they've been given. I guess I'm not alone in these feelings. But I feel like God wants to do more through me. I just don't know how. It's a trust thing in the end. Let Him lead. Follow where you think He's going, knowing that He's not going to take you down a path He hasn't equipped you to walk.

I don't think there's some big conclusion to this post. Not surprisingly, it helps me to write when I'm working through stuff, so thanks for letting me ramble on God for a bit. I'll probably be doing a bit more of this in the future. It's something I've wanted to do for a while. It's why I added Faith to the tagline when I added the header years ago, but I've always been hesitant. But this is my blog, right? And if there's anything I shouldn't be hesitant to talk about ...

Monday, August 29, 2016

Outlining as a Biblical principle

We are on vacation as I’m writing this. (Not now as I'm posting it. We're back. All had fun. All worn out. Still.) My family is all asleep in bed behind me. I’ve got my phone and a Bluetooth keyboard in front of me. I’ve just finished writing probably 1000 words before hitting the sack myself. It feels good to be regularly productive. I feel the best about myself when I am laying down the good words with some regularity.

I’m writing the second book in what I hope will be an astonishingly successful space opera series with some definite Jarrett feel to it. Now, I say it will hopefully have Jarrett feel, but I am toying with the idea of publishing these as a serial. A true serial where one book builds on the previous and there are crazy plot twists and cliffhangers between books. Because of that, I am thinking of using a pen name for this one. It’s a pen name I’ve kept in my back pocket since I was literally a kid.

I have a good idea of where this overall story is going, but hadn’t really plotted out all the different episodes. I am doing that now for the second book, and I like where it’s headed. But I can’t help but feel like my product may have suffered from that lack of an outline in these early drafts. I have a lot of stuff that needs to be revised in the initial drafts of the first story. Big things, too. Not small. It’s OK, though. That’s what the revision process is for.

That said, plotting has been on my mind a lot lately. Even when I am spending time in the Bible in the mornings it’s there, and, if you think of outlining as creating a map, I’ve discovered a verse that proves that outlining is Biblical. Oh, and wait until you see the other post I have planned on plotting vs. pantsing. Like I said, it's something that's been on my mind lately.

Anyway, outlining as Biblical principle. Here you go.

Proverbs 4: 25-26

25 Look straight ahead,
and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
26 Mark out a straight path for your feet;
stay on the safe path.

Until next time, and hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Hitting pause on the New Eden series

I realized today that I wrapped up the first draft of my next story. Weird to say that I realized it, but sometimes weird happens. My concern while writing it was that I hadn't answered the main story question. I'd thought that I was going to need to do a bit more machining of the plot to get us to a place that satisfies the reader. But, just to make sure, I went back and read what I'd already written, and I think that main question is satisfied. So, with that question answered, story done.

Here's the thing, and this is why I'm writing. This story is in a new series. Probably going to be published under a pen name. I'm still debating that last part. So, this isn't the next New Eden story, and that's what I want to talk about.

I'm hitting pause on the New Eden series. I love it. I love the characters. I love the story and where it's going. I love writing it. The problem is, not enough people love reading it. And when I was writing it for fun, that was fine. I could still enjoy the process of creation. But I don't know that creation for the sake of creation is enough any more. I write to be read. It sounds a little weird and a lot selfish, but it's the truth. I don't want to do this creation thing in a vacuum. And while New Eden did have readers, their number was very small. Using all of my fingers and toes I could probably count them without the help of another person. So, treating this whole author/publisher thing like the business that it is, I'm not going to keep focusing on a product that's not of interest to consumers.

To pull the curtain back, Digi City has sold six copies since release. One was to me.

I think that the New Eden stuff has struggled for a couple of reasons. One of them is me. I haven't written them fast enough. Three stories, the equivalent of approximately 65,000 words in five years. That's painfully slow progress in a world where authors are regularly releasing series books at one month intervals. That's on me.

The second problem is also partially on me, I suppose, and that's that the New Eden stories, while clearly cyberpunk, don't necessarily hit all of the subgenre's major tropes. If you accept that the main theme behind cyberpunk is the idea of "high tech, low life" then the New Eden stuff is square. But the bigger tropes, those things that the readers expect (mainly a hyper tech society), aren't there. New Eden is run down. There's no electricity to much of the city. No lights, and classic cyberpunk is full of neon. So, while it's fair to call them cyberpunk, they aren't really. Not what the readers want anyway.

There's a third issue, and it's one out of my control. The cyberpunk category at Amazon is overrun with books that aren't cyberpunk. So much so that it's difficult for readers who want a true cyberpunk book to find anything that they'd want to read. Instead they'd find very traditional sci-fi, some sci-fi romance, and even some weird stuff that I don't know that I want to talk about here.

So what's next? Writing something that has a chance to succeed. To find a readership and make me some money. A few years ago I had an idea for a setting. It was a space station out at the edge of the galaxy, and I called it Transfer Station: Zulu. It was a place, much like New Eden, that felt like fertile ground for stories. It would allow me to tell stories that I wanted to tell with characters that felt like mine but in a way that may be more appealing to more readers. The space opera and space Marines categories on Amazon are popular. The readers of these genres are a lot like romance readers. They do it voraciously. They need a lot of books to keep them happy and their Kindles well-stocked. They are also readers who are open to indie published books.

With that in mind and my setting already in place, I began plotting, and that's how we get to where we are today. A finished space opera story. One that's rough but that I like. It definitely has holes, and it definitely needs a bit of depth added. But I can do that in the editing. That's what it's for, after all.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

On killing your darlings and making stories logically satisfying

Spent the morning working on the WIP. It's a space opera/military piece that I'll share more about later, but I tweeted at the end of my half hour morning write. That's not unusual. I somewhat often recount how the morning went on Twitter. Thought today's little burst of messages was worth sharing here. It's all about logically satisfying plots. I think that this barrage of tweets makes sense as a group. If not, let me know in the comments, and I'll be glad to clarify.

Oh, if you're not already following me on Twitter, do that here.