Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Year of $100

One-hundred dollars.

That's roughly how much money I earned last year as a direct result of my writing. Three books and this blog as a platform to tell the world about them and all I managed to make off those books was one-hundred dollars. Sounds about right to me, and let me tell you why I think so.

For starters, I ain't no Shakespeare.

I realize that, as an author, I should be the first person shouting from the rooftops about why you should buy my books. I should be that person you avoid at parties, the one who'll bore you to tears with details about the painstaking care I took to plan out plot twists, afflict my characters with bizarre yet endearing traits, and leave the story dangling precariously at the edge of a precipice so the reader achingly yearns for the resolution offered in the sequel. But, even after years in sales, I've never been a fan of the hard sell.

What do I think of my books? I like them. I enjoyed writing them. They were fun to outline, fun to write, and fun to edit. I had a good time creating the covers. And while they are far from perfect, I think you might like them, too.

Secondly, I never planned to make a living off this.

Hobbies should be just that -- hobbies. The problem I see is when people experience the smallest taste of success or attention, they tend to run wild with it and get way ahead of themselves.

One of my lifelong dreams was to write a book. Just because I realized that dream doesn't mean my book is any good, or that I deserve legions of adoring fans tripping over themselves to hand over their hard-earned money. That I have a collection of blog posts and two finished fiction books to my name (with a third coming out in the next few weeks) means just as little. All I did was find the time in my busy schedule to indulge in my hobby. Nobody owes me anything for that. It's the difference between chasing your dream in the hopes of realizing fame and fortune and chasing your dream because it brings you a sense of fulfillment.

Sad to say, on those occasions when I do peruse the blogs and websites of authors with similar track records to mine, it seems these authors spend far more time than I working the market, buying ads, attending book signings, managing social media, and for what? So they can end the month having sold seven copies of their books on Amazon? No, thanks. I have far more important things to do (like spend time with my family and earn real money by being good at my real job).

Thirdly, I'm cheap.

If my hobby were wood-working, I wouldn't spend hundreds for a professional to design the rocking chair I planned to build in my basement. If my hobby were painting, I wouldn't seek out a mentor at a national art gallery for pointers on how best to paint a picture of my dog.

Likewise, with writing as my hobby, I'm not about to spend hundreds of dollars on cover designers and editors, regardless of how many times established authors tell me I should if I want to be taken seriously as an author. I'm a hobbyist. By definition, I don't give a crap if people take me seriously.

Of course, I do feel warm and fuzzy when people compliment my books in reviews, or tell me in person that they enjoyed reading one of my books. I'm not immune to feeling a sense of pride or accomplishment when someone shows appreciation or admiration for what I've created, but I try to keep it from going to my head. Publishing success (either through self-publishing or traditional publishing) is, like any other success in life, equal parts hard work and luck. Call me a no-fun practical stick in the mud, but I'd rather put my energy into my day job which yields success in the form of a paycheck every two weeks.

So, at the end of the day, I enjoy writing and hope that my skills improve with each book I complete. If what I write brings a few fleeting moments of enjoyment to friends in my neighborhood or strangers halfway around the world, so much the better.

© 2014 Mark Feggeler

Friday, February 7, 2014

My Aching Back

Regardless of what you might think of my physique, I do exercise regularly. Five days a week, in fact, down at the local fitness center I will have burned hundreds of calories and stretched various dormant muscles beyond their comfort level well before the Sun has even begun to think about cresting over the horizon.

The staple during the past several years has been my willing participation in RPM classes. I've never researched if RPM stands for "revolutions per minute," because I'm fairly certain it really stands for "rectal pain motivation." If you've ever sat on one of those rock-hard bicycle seats for more than five minutes you'll know exactly what I mean. You could slam me square between the legs with a sledgehammer after a 45-minute class and my numb prostate probably wouldn't even register the impact.

The trick to succeeding at RPM is to buy those goofy-looking shoes that clip onto the pedals and don't stop cycling until you black out. If you don't need a paramedic to revive you with crash cart paddles at the end of the class, then you aren't doing it right.

Lately, we've decided to try a program called Body Flow, a maniacal mix of yoga, Pilates and torture rack stretches. I don't know why the name of the class is Body Flow, since the last thing my body feels like it's doing when I leave the fitness center is flowing in graceful movements. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the class and know it increases my limited flexibility, but I'm the only person in there struggling to bend like a double-jointed circus freak and breaking out in flop sweat. And no matter what anyone says, down-dog is not a resting position.

SEATED is a resting position.

PRONE is a resting position.

Propped up like an idiot on your palms and toes with your ass hiked up high toward the rafters is not a resting position. It's an upper-arm-stressing, all-the-blood-to-the-top-of-my-head position that would get me cited for lewd behavior if I did it in the middle of a crowded shopping mall.

A new core-strengthening class we've been attending called CXWorx is slightly more kind to those of us not born with the natural ability to slip our ankles behind our ears. I'd like it even more if those rubber stretchy tubes we use didn't pluck every last hair out of my calves.

Somewhere in the past few weeks, one of these self-inflicted, self-improvement classes inspired me to pull something in my lower back. I've never had lower back trouble before and I can tell you from the heart that I am not enjoying it. In the last few days the pain has spread from my lower back, around my left butt cheek and through to my groin.

That said, I doubt My Lovely Wife should start planning her funeral home-sponsored singles cruise yet, because my doctor's concern when I called earlier today for an appointment registered at a Level 4.

That isn't as bad as it sounds. Level 4 simply means they can't see me for four days. It's when you reach Level 0 -- like I did last year when my throat was closing up for no apparent reason -- that you might have something to worry about. If I'm in good enough shape to wait four days, then I doubt I'll be kicking the bucket any time soon, which is good because the way my back feels right now I probably wouldn't be able to kick it very far.

In the meantime, I'll keep attending the exercise classes and scale back when it comes to anything involving the lower back. I'm sure to get a few stares from those self-righteous workout-a-holics who'll cast disparaging glances my way when I skip a move here or there, but I don't really care what they think of me. If I did, I'd change into fresh underwear before going to the gym.

© 2014 Mark Feggeler