Six Things I’ve Done Wrong In My Writing Career—and Did I Fix Them?

25 years, over 60 books, and I still screw things up. Here are six things I’ve done “wrong” according to most accepted practices for a successful writing career and a note on whether I’ve corrected each, will correct each one, or screw it, it’s just the way I am.

  1. Not networked enough.

This is a people business, just like any other. Early in my career I really believed I could just sit at home, write books, and everything would go fine. Not. I should have made more of an effort to get to know agents, editors, publishers and especially other writers.

Fixed? This is something I’ve worked hard to correct, especially since forming Cool Gus. I try to make it to Seattle once a year to meet with Amazon; in New York to meet with Barnes & Noble. Been to Toronto to sit down with Kobo. Go to BEA to meet industry people. Go to various writers conferences to meet writers. Perhaps the one thing I could do more of is attend science fiction events, since I have had several bestselling series in the genre, but I also have seen too many scifi authors get caught up in the con thing to the detriment of their writing. A balance has to be struck. I’ve noticed that I don’t have a single conference scheduled for 2015, which is a first. I’ll be going to BEA for business networking, and probably stop by RWA Nationals and Thrillerfest for author networking. But beyond that—the slate is wide open for the year.  Maybe I’ll do something science fictiony?

  1. Not taken charge of my career.

I thought my agent was in charge of my career for a long time. Wrong. An agent can help shape your career, but it’s up to the writer to determine goals and actions. I received a lot of good advice from agents over the years, but didn’t focus enough on implementing a business plan that I originated.

Fixed? Once more, since forming Cool Gus, I’ve had to take complete responsibility for my career. There are two sides to this. On one hand it’s a lot of work, but on the other hand it’s tremendously liberating. I determine what I’m writing, how long I take, when I publish, what I publish, etc. etc. I think a trad author (having been one for 20 years and 42 books) really has little idea how great it is to be indie. Yes, you lose a lot of the support of agent/publisher, but the freedom is worth it. As well as the much higher profit margin. I think a lot of authors are seeing sales go down—the best way to offset that is to make more per sale.

  1. Not stuck to one genre and focused on one series.

I’ve had bestsellers in science fiction, thriller and romance. Not a formula for success. I recommend to authors that if they want commercial success, they pick a specific niche and become known for it. Which means do what I didn’t do. I’ve got books that don’t even technically fall into a genre. I tried starting a new genre, technomyth, where I mixed technology and mythology. My Atlantis series was in the vein. My Area 51 series was pitched as an X-Files type story. The Rock, one of my favorite books, was reviewed by Publishers Weekly as the “best combination of science fiction and thriller this year.” Which means it didn’t fit in either.

Fixed? Nope and not really going to be. I just turned in the 4th book in a new series, Nightstalkers: The Time Patrol. I’ve start a new nonfiction series: Shit Doesn’t Just Happen: The Gift of Failure. I’ve got to write book 5 in the Nightstalker series, then book 8 in my Green Beret series, but after that, who knows? I write what I care about and what interests me.  My Shit Doesn’t Just Happen books might turn some people off with the title but I strongly believe the subject matter is so important, it’s worth it.  If we don’t learn from past catastrophes it leaves us vulnerable to future ones.

  1. Not accepted others and gotten in feuds.

This is connected to not networking. In fact it’s the opposite. My wife says I’m a contrarian and I tend to disagree with her on that. Enough said. I think it’s a guy thing. I have noticed that most of those speaking out in publishing and ranting are male. The women are quietly working and making the big bucks.

Fixed? I work hard on this every day. I don’t post comments on blogs like I used to. My own blog rarely gets into the business of publishing these days– I’ve discussed pretty much everything and its in the archives here. I’ve decided trying to talk about publishing is like eating soup with a fork because, as we say at Cool Gus, there are many roads to Oz and Oz means different things to each person.  I work hard to respect everyone’s path, even if I don’t agree with it.  I simply don’t have to take that particular path.

  1. Not enjoyed the gifts of a writing career.

Seriously, it’s a great job. I forget that I don’t have to commute, technically don’t answer to a boss (other than the reader!). That my work of 25 years all earns me income now. In essence, becoming an indie author and the ability to sell to readers through various platforms has completely changed the business model for authors. What would have been 50 out of print books gathering dust on my shelves, now earns me a very nice revenue. It’s not backlist if you haven’t read it! I get to work at home, with my two yellow labs snoring underneath my desk. Get up and go for a bike ride whenever I feel like it.  Can’t beat it.

ShitDoesntJustHappen!&(1)Fixed? I try to be grateful every day that I can work at a job I love.

  1. Not taking enough time off from writing.

The flip side of being my own boss, is that I’m not a very good boss at times. I work all the time. I always feel under pressure to deliver. Under deadlines that I impose on myself. It is rather stressful.

Fixed? Nope, but I’m aware of it. I actually penciled in three days of ‘vacation’ near the end of October, right after a conference. I already know I won’t take those three days off because I have a manuscript due at the end of October. Unless, I work really, really hard and have it done before that conference. Sigh. Catch-22.

What mistakes have you made in your writing career, and what have you done to fix them?  Or do you not care about fixing them?

9 days until publication of Shit Doesn’t Just Happen: The Gift of Failure! Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks





WHAT WAS I THINKING?????? Lucky Catch by Nationally Bestselling Author Deborah Coonts

Please welcome Cool Gus Team Member Deborah Coonts to Write on the River to talk about her latest release!

Available NOW!

Available NOW!

Amazon, Nook, iBooks, Google, Kobo

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This whole story started with a smoking gun.

You see, I’m not much of a foodie. And, I’m not much of a cook either. In fact, I have a love/hate relationship with food—I love it, but I hate it when my jeans don’t fit. And it doesn’t help that I’m more of a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives kind of gal rather than one who favors an exorbitantly-priced, twenty-item tasting menu that stills leaves you lusting after a Whataburger. So, when it comes to fancy food prep, I’m a bit clueless.

Which leads me back to the smoking gun thing.

I was eating dinner at one of my favorite local restaurants in Vegas, Due Forni, with two of my best buds, one of them a chef. As a first course, we ordered some of the homemade mozzarella and their famous bread (totally to die for). I ordered the smoked cheese and, through mouthfuls I expressed my pleasure and my wonder at how they imparted the smoky flavor. I’m originally from Texas and the whole smoked thing is a religion there—but it requires a huge smoker and tons of hickory and I didn’t see that sort of set up at Due Forni. So, I wondered out loud how someone might give fresh mozzarella a smoked flavor.

My bud, the chef, looked at me as if I’d been living under a rock and announced, “With a smoking gun, of course.”

But, of course! A smoking gun. Who knew?

That little tidbit stopped me mid-bite and totally derailed his dinner as I peppered him with questions.

I mean, there’s just something so prosaic about killing someone with a smoking gun, don’t you think?

So, off the story ran, as stories are wont to do. Before long I found myself mired hip-deep in the world of gourmet cookery. And I became interested in the conundrum of serving incredibly fresh food in a place that is as hospitable to the nurture of delicate plants and exotic fish as the surface of the moon. And that led to research into the pipeline for gourmet foodstuffs, the need for temperature control, for impeccable and consistent quality and lightning fast shipments. All of this is incredibly competitive, with the top-tier chefs locked in a fierce battle for the freshest, most unique items on the planet.

The perfect recipe for murder.

Or several, as the case may be… kitchens are dangerous places, you know.

And, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect for this sort of culinary chaos.

In LUCKY CATCH, Lucky has been promoted. She is now the Vice President of Customer Relations for the Babylon, Vegas’s primo Strip property, which really doesn’t change anything, it just sounds more important. She’s still charged with keeping the lid on guests, entertainers, chefs and staff who decide to turn up the heat while at the Babylon. Normally, this isn’t a problem, but with the dishy, world-renowned chef, Jean-Charles Bouclet in hot pursuit and the return of her former lover, Teddie, setting her emotions on sizzle, Lucky’s is a bit distracted.

And then, with Thanksgiving approaching, a young woman gets smoked in Jean-Charles’s food truck on the Babylon’s back lot and he becomes the prime suspect. Of course, he goes on the lam leaving Lucky to deal with his sister and his niece who stick to Lucky like a good roux, leaving her to wonder what game he is really playing. To make matters worse, Mona, Lucky’s mother, is up to her normal shenanigans, throwing fat in the fire just when Lucky seems to be taming it to a manageable flame.

Of course, all of this would be easy as pie for Lucky…except the Babylon is hosting a nationally-televised celebrity chef cooking competition and the prized white truffle, one of the main ingredients, goes missing. Not even the truffle pig that Miss P has ensconced in Bungalow 7 in the rarified air of the Kasbah, can find it.

Would someone really kill for a truffle?

As usual, in a bit of shameless product placement, I insert many of my favorite local restaurants in the book, which is one of my favorite things to do. And, of course, I had to sample them anew before doing so… quality control and all of that. Not to mention the tax-deductible thing.

I wonder if the resulting gym membership is deductible as well?

Anyway, please join Lucky on her wild ride through the kitchens of Vegas and find out whether Lucky can clear her chef before his goose is cooked, whether she decides it’s possible to love again without being parboiled in the process, and who her LUCKY CATCH might be.

And whether I might be shot for working a metaphor so hard it rolled over and died.

* * * * *

Thanks for stopping by Deborah! Nothing but good times.

Available NOW!

Available NOW!

Amazon, Nook, iBooks, Google, Kobo

Its Time to Meet a New Kind of Hero: Dante’s Fire by Jennifer Probst

Exciting times here at Cool Gus Command Central. Today we have two awesome releases by two of our very talented team members. Dante’s Fire by Jennifer Probst and Lucky Catch by Deborah Coonts. We’ll be spending the next two days hearing from these fabulous writers! Nothing but good times.

Please welcome NY Times Bestselling Author Jennifer Probst to Write on the River with her latest release, Dante’s Fire, which is being released today in Print, eBook and Audio!

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Available NOW!

Available NOW!

Amazon, Nook, iBooks, Google, Kobo, Audiobook

By Jennifer Probst:

A New Kind of Hero….

Ah, how I adore my alpha billionaires.

The Marriage to a Billionaire series was created on this brand of delicious men that never left me alone – who haunted my dreams and my heart and helped me write with passion.

And then I fell madly in love with Nate from Searching for Perfect – my first beta nerd-geek extraordinaire. Readers filled my inbox with their love for this nerd and his transformation, and I was overjoyed taking the risk had been worth it.

And then…a new type of hero haunted my muse. I saw him so clearly, a human trapped in this world with a dark secret and power that tortured him. Kept him isolated. A sexy, broody, secret billionaire hero that was different from all others I had ever written.

Oh. Yeah.

Dante was born in all superhero glory. But not a regular superhero. A human with a special gift that helped the world but destined him to live in the shadows. Enter the woman of his dreams, secrets, passion galore, and I had the series of a lifetime.

Dante’s struggle is universal, and I identified with him immediately. I may not have special powers, but hasn’t everyone felt alone and isolated in this world? Not worthy of love? Trying to do the right thing but pressured to bend and be selfish with our own pleasure?

This is the human struggle I wanted to explore. Of course, he needed to be super hot, an amazing lover, and bigger than life.

And he is.

He also needed the right woman who would not only be strong enough to accept his gift, but love him even more for it, though it’s a sacrifice for both of them.

Selina Rogers is that woman. Their story and struggle to be together will hopefully be the perfect ending to your scorching summer!

Here’s a teaser of what you will find in Dante’s Fire and my new hot hero.

Darkness stole over his face. His features seemed carved from stone. “Someone I loved was killed. For a long time, I didn’t know how to handle it. I lashed out, angry at the world, angry at my weakness. I finally realized in order to be strong; we have to allow ourselves to feel the grief first. The rage. The helplessness. Then we can heal.”

As if they shared the same soul, pain shuddered through her body, imagining him as a boy watching someone get hurt. Someone he couldn’t help. “Is that how you got your scar?”

Dan touched his face. A lifetime of memories flickered in his eyes. “Yes. I had nights I didn’t think I could handle because of the nightmares.”

The words drove deep. Him too. Maybe she wasn’t so alone after all, but like most bad things, people kept them locked inside and refused to share. Suddenly, he reached over to her. His finger trailed down her bruised cheek with so much tenderness tears stung her eyes. “But I learned something important. Scars aren’t a weakness, Selina. They’re signs of strength because we survived.”

The truth struck her full force. Her hands gripped her coffee mug as she struggled to process this new energy between them, this intimacy that made her suddenly ache to have his arms wrap around her and hold tight. To feel his hands stroking while his lips took hers.

She froze, waiting for him to do something, waiting for him to do nothing. Last week she might have made the move. Might have. But now?

His hand dropped.

“I better go.” His gruff words broke the spell. He dumped the paper cup in the garbage and headed toward the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yes. See you tomorrow.”

She watched him walk away and wondered if she’d ever be the same person again.


Available NOW!

Available NOW!

Amazon, Nook, iBooks, Google, Kobo, Audiobook

* * * * *

Thanks Jen! Absolutely LOVE this book.

Tomorrow we have National Bestselling Author Deborah Coonts with the 5th book in her Lucky Series, Lucky Catch.

Available NOW!

Available NOW!

Amazon, Nook, iBooks, Google, Kobo

Why The Title?

Shit Doesn't Just HappenI’ve been asked, sometimes with anger (which is curious), why my next book to be published has profanity in the title: Shit Doesn’t Just Happen: The Gift of Failure.

I debated a long time whether to keep that title or go with others, such as Seven By Seven: The Anatomy of Catastrophe. But I’m going to be up front. I feel so strongly about this book, that I believe the more controversial title is needed.

I’m not a fan of profanity, but I didn’t invent the phrase shit happens. It’s part of our lexicon. Apparently Forrest Gump even helped invent it.

Years ago, I remember getting a letter (remember those?) from a kid liking my Area 51 books. And I realized I didn’t need profanity in those books. So I tried to refrain. Of course, in my military thrillers and other books, it has a place. But much like a sex scene, it has to serve a purpose or it’s extraneous. In my few early sex scenes before collaborating with Jennifer Crusie, the scene always ended with someone dying (usually the woman) so the hero could swear vengeance and thus we have the rest of the book (plus he doesn’t have to talk). Kind of misogynistic, I admit. In Chasing The Lost, my hero is seduced and there’s definitely a reason for it. And not what he thinks.

Going back to the anger thing: Jen Talty says a brand needs ‘haters’ to succeed. Sort of like relationships: you’d rather have someone hate you than be apathetic. So the pushback is actually a bit encouraging.

So, yes. I want a bit of controversy. Because I do believe that the book is important. It’s the first in a series. Each one covers seven catastrophes. And lists the seven cascade events leading up to each disaster. This is based on my Rule of Seven.  My wife and I developed the Rule of Seven after watching Seconds From Disaster and we saw a pattern to plane crashes—they all required at least seven things to go wrong. The bottom line is that many catastrophes can be avoided. But we have to study ones that happened in order to learn for the future.  It gives meaning to the sacrifices of the victims.

In the first book, due out 9 September, I cover events as wide ranging as the Titanic (easy one) to Tulips (not so easy). Then there is the Donner Party where my focus isn’t on the cannibalism, but the homicides. And I discuss a fellow West Pointer, George A. Custer and his date with destiny on the Greasy Grass River, aka Little Big Horn.  There’s also the plane crash where the pilot mistakenly turned off his only working engine.  And the worst school disaster in US History, which led to a law that has saved many lives since then.  And finally how the sacrifice of Apollo 1 saved the lives of the men on Apollo 13.

I’ll blog more about all this. And for those whose sensibilities I’ve offended, I would apologize, but as George Costanza says, end on a high note.

Shit Doesn’t Just Happen: The Gift of Failure (Titanic, Kegworth, Custer, Donner, Schoolhouse, Tulips, Apollo 13) is now available on pre-order for the 9 Sept pub date at Amazon and iBooks.

And, oh yeah.  The real reason I’m keeping the title is my wife told me to keep it.  And I’ve learned to always say yes, which is the secret to a successful marriage.


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