Thursday, September 25, 2014

Getting Older

Ever notice other living things getting older? For us this week it was a maple tree. We’ve been debating all summer whether to have an over forty-year-old silver maple tree removed. A large number of branches have died. First, we thought we’d keep it, then we considered having it replaced, but finally we had it trimmed and will see in the Spring if it bounces back or not.

We had a similar situation with our cat who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. We called our daughter (we had got the cat when she was a senior in high school) and warned her that the cat might only live for another month. She perked up and is going strong three years later..
Likewise, my wife is a cancer survivor, and I’ve recovered from a heart attack a year ago. Maybe we have more aches and pains, but so far we keep on ticking.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Life Long Learning

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? One of the beauties of being retired is that I now have numerous opportunities to pursue new forms of learning. First of all a caveat. I retired from a high tech career into the world of writing. Since the time I decided to pursue writing in 2001, I have found many educational opportunities that have been valuable and eye-opening. Here are a few:

Citizens police academies—As a mystery writer, I have benefited from three different police citizens academies I’ve attended, two city and one county sheriff. They provide a chance for ordinary citizens to learn more about law enforcement. I’ve also volunteered as a role player for police training. I’ve been a hostage, hostage taker, assaulter, aggressive panhandler, drunk, traffic violator and illegal camper, to name a few.

Citizens fire academies—I’ve attended two programs to learn about fire fighting. Again, an awareness-building experience on the variety of services provided by fire and rescue organizations.

University classes—The University of Colorado has a wonderful program for older people. If you’re fifty-five or older, you can audit any class for free with the instructors permission. Living in Boulder, I availed myself of this and took two fiction writing courses to jump start my mystery writing.

Educational hikes—Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks hosts numerous educational hikes. I’ve learned about subjects including the geology of our region, the impact of the September 2013 flood, flowers, animals and photography.

Book clubs—I’ve periodically attended two books clubs, which both have well-read and articulate participants. As well as reading interesting books, I’ve appreciated the insights of involved readers.

Volunteering—One of the activities that has taught me the most is volunteering in our community. I’ve been on the Boulder County Aging Advisory Council, a respite volunteer and mentored/tutored kids. Talk about learning from both elders and young people.

Civic engagement—Opportunities abound to become involved in local issues. Lately, I’ve been supporting improvements to senior housing—providing a variety of housing options for our rapidly growing senior population.

The bottom line—we are surrounding by opportunities to keep learning no matter what age we are.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hybrid Authors

At the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference this last weekend, I attended several panels and had a number of interesting conversations on the subject of hybrid authors. So what’s a hybrid author? It’s someone who is published both traditionally (through a publisher) and independently (self-published).

I’m a hybrid author in that my eight books are available through medium and small publishers, but I’ve also self-published four e-books, the first four books in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series because I retained the e-book rights to these. Since then my publisher has decided to publish e-books as well as print books.

The advantage of traditional publishing is that the publisher bears all the costs of editing, book cover design, production and distribution. Also, traditional publisher have established sales channels to get books to market.  The disadvantage is the author gives up control and receives a relatively small percentage of the money earned.

The advantage of independent (self-publishing) is that the author controls the whole process and gets all the money earned on sales. The disadvantage is that the author must bear the upfront costs and take the time to manage and do much of the upfront work. Also, the author must bear all the brunt of sales and marketing of the book.

The hybrid world now allows an author to pick and choose which manuscripts to publish through the traditional route and which through the independent route. This gives the author the best of both worlds depending on the particular manuscript.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference

One of my favorite writers conferences is taking place this coming weekend (Friday through Sunday) at the Westin Hotel in Westminster, Colorado—The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference.

I’ve attended this every year since 2002, a year after I started writing. The first year I knew one other person (a writer I worked with in the high tech world), but since then I’ve made many friends there.

I’m particularly loyal to this conference because I sold my first novel as a result of a pitch session in 2005 to editor, Deni Dietz, of Five Star. She told me to email my manuscript to her after the conference. I went home, made one more editing pass, emailed it, crossed my fingers, and three months later I received a contract offer. The result, Retirement Homes Are Murder was published in January, 2007.

The conference offers something for everyone. There are workshops on craft, the art of pitching and selling your manuscript, and promotion once a book is published. I attend workshops on all three levels. I’ve learned that I always need to continue to improve my writing.

This year I’m organizing moderators for the conference, will teach a workshop titled, “Rejection Is Not a Four Letter Word,” and will host a table at Friday dinner for David Wilk, publisher at Frederator Books.

I’m looking forward to seeing friends and making new ones.