Over the past year and a half, since I started this journey, I’ve been to countless websites, blogs, Facebook pages, GoodReads profiles, Amazon Author pages and a zillion other services for authors. What’s the most surprising to me is how few authors have real websites, on their own domain.

As someone who works a day job building and maintaining websites, this causes some great concern. Not just because that’s my bread and butter as I sell copies of my book, but because it’s not always safe to do that.

Here’s some reasons why having a real website is important.

You control your data.

With a hosted service, such as a WordPress.com website, a Facebook page, or a Blogspot blog, you don’t own your content. If you read the fine print carefully in the terms of service, the service you’re publishing through owns everything you publish (in most cases). Which means you’re basically giving away your bread and butter.

More control over aesthetics

When you run your own website, you (generally) have much more control over how it looks and what features you can use with it. Granted, this can be limited by your personal skills, the skills of the person you hire to manage it for you, or the budget you have to spend on it.

I realize that most people go with a hosted service for one of three reasons: 1) Cost. 2) Easy. 3) It’s all they know how to do.

Security

It’s usually more secure to run your own website, because you have more control over what’s allowed. When you have an account with a hosting service (such as GoDaddy, 1&1, etc.) you can run your own software of choice, opting to keep it up to date and make sure that your content is as secure as you want it to be.

When you use a third party service, let’s use Blogspot for example, you have no control over the availability of your content. What if Blogspot goes down right as your book goes on sale? What recourse do you have for a service you’re getting for free? You can complain, but ultimately it’s not in your control of when your page will come back up.

If you run your own site you’ll have as much control as you want over that outage. In most cases you can get your site back up pretty easily, usually with just a call to your webhost.

A domain name

This one should be a no brainer! How much easier is it to tell someone you meet at an event or a book signing that your website is yourname.com or yourbook.com?

It’s easier to tell them and easier for them to remember. If you have to tell them it’s mybook.blogspot.com or mybook.tumblr.com, they’ll be less likely to remember when they get home. Having a custom domain name means that you have something more memorable.

Not to mention that the .book domain is coming in 2015. That means you can have title.book as your book and have it direct right to your website.

There are countless other reasons why you should have your own website and these are just meant as examples. In this self-publishing world where we all want to appear like we’re professionals with years of experience, dozens of books, and a literary agent that’s a big deal, having a real domain name with a real website is a must.

Now that A Sour Chord is fully done and for sale in the various market places, I’ve decided to put off all of the other real-world tasks that I have to complete and get back to work on My Last Days.

Last week I started re-reading everything I’d written so far, so I can be familiar with my characters again, as well as the story lines I’d written. I probably could have skipped this process, but it’s actually pretty beneficial for a few reasons. Primarily because I’ve already found mistakes and inconsistencies in the first draft, but also because I’m getting back into the head of my main character, which is important for this particular work.

My goal is to finish reading the last 40 pages by Wednesday and get back to writing later in the week or early next.

This is such a fun journey and one that I’m glad that I’m able to do without very much effort or money. (Though, let’s be honest, I spent more than I thought I would on A Sour Chord, but that was worth it.)

I’m shooting to finish the first draft, first round of edits and a second draft by the end of the summer before turning it over to an editor. Then, this time, I’ll do a bigger group of beta readers than I did with A Sour Chord. Hopefully that’ll spark more interest.

I’m also hopeful that a second book will inherently draw more attention than the first anyway, now that I’m not an “unknown” anymore.

If you grabbed a copy of A Sour Chord, thank you! If not, it’s still on sale for 99 cents through the end of June across all platforms. Grab a copy before the sale ends and read it whenever you’d like. Once it’s yours, it’s yours! Also, if you have grabbed a copy, thank you so much. I hope you enjoy it enough to leave a review on the site you purchased from. I’d love that very much!

Everyone’s got their own unique writing setup.  Everyone has what works for them and prefers to work in a certain manner.

I have a unique setup, as I spend my non-writing days doing a variety of other jobs; building websites, doing tech support, doing voice recording.  I’ve got a unique setup on my desk, so I thought I’d share how I work.

My desk itself is a NextDesk Terra (http://www.nextdesks.com/terra), which is an adjustable height desk.  With the push of a button, I can go from standing to sitting or vise versa.  I tend to stand most of the day because it’s “healthier” than sitting all day.  I use quotes there because it’s not fully proven to be any healthier, but I certainly feel healthier.

On my desk sits a number of technological things, as you can see:

My DeskTo walk you through the whole setup, from left to right we have:

  • A Blue Yeti microphone, for voice recording and online meetings (not shown in the photo.)
  • An empty plastic container that I eat my cereal from.
  • A 2013 model Mac Pro with an external hard drive hiding behind the monitor on the left.
  • 24″ Dell monitor in portrait mode.  This screen contains my email, task manager (Todoist) and a phone panel to accept tech support calls for my day job.
  • My checkbox, letter opener and a roll of stamps.
  • Speakers
  • 30″ Apple Cinema display — with a Logitech camera on top of it, various cables under it, a Sharpie, a pen, soft cloths to clean iOS devices.
  • Landline phone
  • 22″ Samsung LCD TV hooked up to a TiVo in the closet (this TV also swivels over towards where my exercise bike is, so I can enjoy TV while I exercise.)
  • Some junk that has no other home.
  • Vitamins, because you’ve gotta be healthy!
  • 2013 MacBook Air (my work computer that hardly gets used.)

My keyboard and mouse aren’t standard Apple hardware.  The keyboard is a Logitech solar powered keyboard that has the same look and feel of the Mac keyboard (with the short press keys) that I’ve had a few months now.  I wanted to go wireless when I got my new computer, but Apple’s wireless keyboard doesn’t have the number pad and I found myself not able to live without that.

My mouse I’ve had for what feels like decades. It’s a Logitech Performance Pro MX, and is form fitted for a right handed person.  It’s probably the most comfortable and functional mouse I’ve ever owned.  I have two or three of them kicking around for laptops and backups and whatnot.

Both of my screens have specific sets of desktops on them that I use for various tasks.  The monitor on the left is primarily the same with email, tasks, and various day-job related browser windows.

The main screen varies based on the function at hand.

  • If I’m writing, I use a specific desktop that just has Scrivener on it.
  • If I’m working tech support, I have Chrome, Skype, and Adium all open in their appropriate spots (this is what you’re seeing in my image up there.)
  • If I’m doing web development, I have Coda 2, Transmit and Firefox open in a desktop by themselves.

By using OS X’s built in Desktops feature, I’m able to quickly shift gears without having to hide windows, minimize things, and re-organize myself. I just change desktops and I’m ready to go.

While I’m working, I listen to music.  Regardless of what type of “work” I’m doing, I have iTunes always playing.  I use Alfred‘s built in iTunes player to find the tracks or playlist I want without having to actually look through iTunes.  I just open Alfred and type in what playlist I want, like so:

AlfredRight now, I’m listening to The Winery Dogs’ “Criminal”, but since I’ve typed in mellow, I can start my mellow playlist just by pressing enter.  It saves some time in having to go into iTunes and find that playlist.

When I’m writing I like to listen to music without lyrics — either classical or movie scores, as I find it distracts my brain less than if I’m listening to something where my mind might want to sing along.

When I’m doing my every day tasks or working on a website I usually listen to my Rock playlist, that has thousands of songs of my favorite rock bands in it.

My office is usually dark. I have curtains that block out the light and rely on the IKEA “behind TV lights” that are mounted behind my monitor for illumination.  I do this specifically because of where my office is in the building.  It’s on the Southeast corner, so as soon as the sun gets overhead, it beats on the corner wall all afternoon, making it a sweatbox in here.  On any given warm afternoon, it’s +20 degrees from the rest of my apartment.  It makes it tough to focus, so I’ve resorted to blocking out light and having a fan on during the warmer months.

My hope is that once I get out of this apartment (hopefully later this year, over the summer), I’ll find a house with a separate workspace. I’d love a space over a garage so I can have my desk as well as my drums, and still be separate from the main living area.  Some people think it’s a perk to be able to work from home, but it takes a certain discipline.  You need to be able to separate work from home life and sometimes that’s tough.  I think having a separate dwelling where I can do my “work” would help with the daily challenges of working from a home office.

That’s it for how I work. I hope you enjoyed my workspace and learning about how I work on a daily basis.  I’m happy to answer any questions about it, whether they’re technology questions or workflow questions. Fire away in the comments!

 

There’s been some discussion over what the “best” music is to listen to when you write — or if you should listen to music at all.

I don’t have the right answer as to whether or not you should listen to music, I can only say that I do.  Though I find myself listening to things that I can completely ignore, but still enjoy.

Most commonly, I listen to movie scores. Not soundtracks, as those can be distracting — I mean, how many more times can I burst into song and sing along with “Let It Go” again? — but instrumental scores from film.  I’ve got an iTunes playlist that comprises of a number of scores from some of my favorite movies.  The Braveheart score is one of the top played, along with Inception.

The melodies inspire creativity in my feeble attempts at creating something that people will enjoy, while not distracting me from the task at hand.  I’ve found that if I’m listening to something with lyrics — regardless of what those lyrics are — I get distracted.  My brain can’t ignore the lyrics and I find myself singing along, not getting anything done as I should be.

What’s right for you to write with is up to you, when the cards fall. There’s no right or wrong thing. Whatever inspires you, whatever helps you be creative, and whatever makes your brain fire on the right cylinders — that’s what’s right for you.