Friday, July 6, 2018

Beware the mouse slip

Yesterday I posted something about being really productive. Yay me . . . 

Today, I'm posting a warning about mouse slips. Yes, there is such a thing. It's when you do something with your computer's mouse or mouse pad that results in something bad, like buying something you don't want for $100 or in my case losing 1,000 words somewhere, which is far, far worse, believe me.

I had my Explorer window open on the right side in a small size. Behind it was my Google drive location where I store my novels' daily backups (one of the places they have a home). All you have to do is click and drag from the Explorer window to the Google window, and the files upload.

Unless you make a mouse slip. Somewhere between my Explorer file folders window and Google I let go of the click-and-hold mouse button on my laptop. I looked in the Explorer folder and could see the files for July 3rd and the 5th, but not the 6th, today. My heart sank. They were a beautiful 1,000 words. I could remember some of them, but really? 1,000?

I did a search for the file name on "This PC." It took for-damn-ever and finally replied, huh? We don't have one of those, you knucklehead.

I visually searched the two small folders listed under that thing I hate, One Drive. Nothing.

Panic has set in. This was the next to the last chapter of my newest book, for crying out loud.

Fortunately, I'm stubborn.

Then I double-click the root of that thing I hate, One Drive. Ah ha! There you are, my pretty! I copied by using Ctrl-C and went to my Explorer folder. Ctrl-V! yeah, Boom! Got my 1,000 words back, so there.

Then I ate dinner.

I'm okay now, but wow. Only 2,349 words to go. I think tomorrow I'll stick my thumb drive in my laptop and leave it there until I'm done. And I'll Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V my way to happiness.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Getting really close on Sgt. Dunn #10

On Saturday, June 30th, I set a personal record of 5,014 words in one day! That's almost 20 book pages! My daily goal is 2,000, so I was really pumped to beat 5 grand.

Today, I ONLY wrote 2,668, but am now 94% done with the first draft. I expect to finish it either Saturday or Sunday. Then after an edit or two, it'll be off to my famous FIRST READERS. 

I'm still hoping for a late July release.

Stay tuned for the title reveal and the book description.

See you soon.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Join WWII authors for a Twitter chat on D-Day, June 6th at 9pm EDT

Hi Sgt. Dunn readers!

I belong to a Facebook group of WWII fiction authors. We are having a D-Day chat on Twitter about anything and everything to do with WWII. This is a great opportunity to meet other WWII authors and chat with us. Questions are welcome.

Please join us at #WWIIChat on 6/6/18, this Wed. night starting at 9pm EDT. Or follow @Alexa_Kang to join the chat when it starts.

Help us Tweet and Retweet! Be sure to include the hashtag #WWIIChat in your tweets and RTs!

Hope to see you there.


Monday, May 28, 2018

Remembering my Mom,

My mom, Olga R Munsterman, served in the Coast Guard during WWII as a Yeoman 2nd Class. She is buried at Leavenworth National Cemetery.

Memorial Day 2018

In remembrance and honor of those who died fighting for our great nation.

Arlington National Cemetary

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Pod people

I'm a huge fan of 1950s science fiction movies. You know, the ones that are usually in black & white and are maybe "B" movies? However, some rise above the "B" status, and the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one of them. I usually watch it on DVD about once a year, in fact I might be due . . . 


In the movie, aliens take over a California town through the use of "pods," thus the cultural term "pod people." My wife simply can't stand the pods, especially when they start to form humans, and they truly creep her out.

On one of the main roads we travel here in our city is a manufacturing company. This company instituted a new policy a few years ago that forbids smoking anywhere on the company property, which includes the parking lot. So smokers can't just go to their cars and light up.

We were driving by the gigantic parking lot one day right after the new policy went into effect, and there were about a dozen or more people standing on the public sidewalk, smoking. It was a cold, dreary winter day and they were huddled together wearing their heavy coats. Clouds of breath and smoke hovered over their heads.

I quickly said the first thing that came to mind: "Oh, look, it's the pod people!"

My wife laughed so hard . . . it was sure worth it. Now, every time we drive by and see folks on the sidewalk, I'm obliged to say, "Oh, look, it's the pod people!" Works every time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A little bit about my writing history Part 3 (conclusion) – The road to self-publishing

When we lived in northeast Kansas, I coached scholastic chess from 1993 to 2000. My son was the trigger for that. We lived in a small town of about 1,100 people, yet we had a Saturday chess club of about 8 to 10 players. The players eventually became strong enough that the team won 2nd place at the Kansas State Championship tournament . . . twice. They beat out teams from much larger schools from cities like Kansas City, KS, Wichita, Topeka, and Lawrence. When we moved to Iowa in 2000 due to the Quaker Oats plant in St. Joseph, MO closing, and I transferred to Cedar Rapids, my son was going into the 10th grade. We didn’t continue with chess because at that time, there were very few scholastic tournaments in Iowa. I only played in a few tournaments myself. I’m back to coaching and have been coaching since 2009, inspired to return to it by writing the chess book (below).

In early 2009, my wife told me I should write a book about coaching chess so people could learn from my successful coaching experiences. That was very exciting and I started writing it on February 1, 2009. My original intent was to write a book about how to coach a scholastic chess club, but not to get mired down in having a section on how to teach players the game. It wasn’t long before I realized you couldn’t have one without the other.

I used the same Excel spreadsheet template I’d used for the two novels, with some changes, of course, since this was nonfiction. Worked great, though. While working on the book, I was also researching how you “pitch” a non-fiction book. The process is quite different from a novel. For a novel, it’s a gigantic no-no to try to land an agent without first finishing the book. For non-fiction, the reverse is the norm. You pitch the book with a three chapter sample, an outline, and where the book will fit in the market. Sort of like what makes your book so special?

Somewhere along the line, I’d also started researching self-publishing. At that time, self-publishing, also known these days as indie (independent) publishing, was still carrying a stigma that the writer was “not good enough” for the traditional publishers. I think a large part of this was due to two things: 1) people thought it was the same thing as “vanity” publishing, which it most certainly is NOT. More on this in a second. And 2) Few people believed the quality of the self-published books was very good. Back to vanity publishing: this is where YOU pay a company to publish your book. They offer “services” like editing and book covers, but you pay them for each service including the actual printing. You typically have to order quite a few copies of the book. As a general rule, self-published writers take the position that we should never pay someone to publish our books. Paying someone to edit our books and / or to create our covers is okay and is considered a cost of our publishing the book.

Back to the chess book, which ended up having the rather lengthy title of Chess Handbook for Parents and Coaches. Those were the two target audiences. The first half of the book helps a person teach a student (or child) how to play the game. It’s based on how I taught many kids to play. It includes the benefits of playing chess. The second half of the book is about the world of chess: the United States Chess Federation (USCF), famous players, world champions, how to start and run a scholastic chess club, how to prepare for a tournament, and what actually happens at a tournament. How to help players during a tournament, but not during a game, which is expressly forbidden by the rules of chess.

I finished the book and used Amazon’s CreateSpace to publish the paperback in early August, 2010. I had done it! I had published a book. Whoo hoo! I really didn’t do any marketing and I sold a few books a month for some time. I contacted the USCF, which has a great online store ( for all things chess, and they agreed to buy six books on consignment. If they sold, then they would reorder. I’m happy to say I get orders from them every year. I also sell to every year.

Meanwhile back at the ranch . . . I figured if I couldn’t land an agent for Operation Devil’s Fire, why not publish it myself? I finally did that for the paperback in July the next year, on 7/11/11. Again I sold a few a month, sometimes only one. Sometimes only zero. I also had figured out how to publish for Kindle and did that a few weeks later (7/23/11). I did absolutely no research on Kindle pricing for WWII books, so I just picked $4.95, thinking that was an okay price. It sold just as many as the paperback, sometimes zero.

This disheartening lack of sales continued into January, 2012, when it finally occurred to me that maybe I should see how much other Kindle WWII novels were actually selling for. Well, that turned out to be both a smart thing to do and an embarrassing thing (that I hadn’t done it back in July!). Almost all of the WWII novels were selling for $0.99. Less than a dollar. I didn’t even have to think about it, I mean what did I have to lose? Zero x $4.95 was still zero. So I changed the price and let it go.

It sold a few in February and March, and a few more in April (remember, this is 2012). Then in May it sold more than a few. I got excited, but figured it was due to Memorial Day coming up. But sales kept climbing into June. Then July shot through the roof. Then August through November all doubled July. The book was in two categories. All 9 books are in the same ones: War and Military. Operation Devil’s Fire’s ranking peaked at #7 in the War category, and somewhere around #1,300 in Paid in Kindle Store!

I could hardly believe my good fortune. A book turned down by 50 agents was selling! I was getting good reviews and very kind emails from readers, some of whom shared their personal stories about WWII such as their family members who served.

During June, 2012, when the numbers per day were really climbing, my wife and I started a nightly tradition: just before bedtime, I would check the total sales for the day (and yes, I used Excel, and still do, to track these numbers) and give her the number. We’d stare at each other in disbelief and then grin. I felt then, and still do now, very humbled by the success of the books and grateful for readers’ support.

In July, 2012, I decided to shelve a modern-day thriller I’d been working on because of what was happening with Operation Devil’s Fire. I still really like that story, and may someday finish and publish it. Anyway, I started writing Behind German Lines in August, which I finished on June 23, 2013, so a little less than a year. It was published on October 25th.

So that’s my writing story. Not all glorious, but I learned what to do, when to do it, became a disciplined writer, and wrote books that I loved writing for readers who enjoyed them. I had perhaps tripped and fallen into my niche, WWII novels. And I was thrilled because I love WWII history and I’ve shown you how that came to be in earlier posts.

Here’s a list of all my books, the date each was published, and how many calendar days elapsed between publication dates.

* Remember, I started writing the book on 1/4/2004, so it actually took 7.6 years to get it published.

** I retired from my day job on this date! Note that the frequency really jumped after that. My goal had been to hit three per year and I’ve done that.

I’ll be forever grateful to my wife for suggesting I write the chess book. With that idea, she is responsible for everything that came to pass with the Sgt. Dunn Novels. She also provides me with encouragement for each book, as well as being an editor.

I hope you enjoyed a little peek into my writing life. If you’re a reader of the Sgt. Dunn Novels, please accept my heartfelt thanks for your support! If you’re a writer, I hope you can draw some inspiration to persevere, and learn from some of the things I did.

The main thing is be disciplined. This means writing every day. This means writing when you don’t feel like it. This means write what you love.

Thanks for stopping by!