Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I’ve noticed a lot more hyphenated last names recently, especially on children. As I understand it, in general the hyphenated last name is a combination of the husband’s last name along with the wife’s maiden name. (Although I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule.)

However, as I think about it, I see this possibly leading to all sorts of confusion, issues and even possible arguments and tensions down the road.

Before I get to that, let me set one thing clear: I believe in equal rights for women and men. I don’t see men as superior over women or vice-versa.

Traditionally, when a woman marries a man she takes on his last name. However, as I’ve been told, some women see that as unfair—it’s a tradition from a less enlightened time. Some women elect to keep their maiden name. That’s their choice, and I respect that.

Then there are those couples who elect to hyphenate their last name. One of the reasons why, as I understand it, is so their children will have their same last name. It can also be seen as a “true merger” between the couple.

And thus we arrive at the questions and concerns I have. (This is where you put on your “satire” glasses.)

What determines which name goes first? If it is the man’s name, isn’t that still sexist—meaning it is still leaning on the tradition of the man being dominant?

Or is it done alphabetically? And then what about those people who happen to have the same last name before the get married? Would their last name be Smith-Smith?

And then, there is the issue of the children of future generations.

Imagine the following situation:

John Jones and Mary Brown get married. They decide to hyphenate their last name. They are now Mrs. and Mr. Brown-Jones. (They chose the alphabetical method.) They have a son, Bobby. Bobby’s official last name is Brown-Jones.

Across town, Henry Smith and Jane Taylor get married. They decide to hyphenate their last name. They are now Mr. and Mrs. Smith-Taylor. (They flipped a coin on which name came first.) They have a daughter, Peggy. Peggy’s official last name is Smith-Taylor.

Bobby Brown-Jones grows up, meets and falls in love with Peggy Smith-Taylor. They are both enlightened people, as is proven by their last names. When they get married, what will their new last name be? Wouldn’t it have to be Brown-Jones-Smith-Taylor? Or maybe Smith-Taylor-Brown-Jones?

Let’s say it is the first one: Brown-Jones-Smith-Taylor.

They have a son, Jimmy. His name is Jimmy Brown-Jones-Smith-Taylor. He grows up, meets and falls in love with Betty Johnson-Anderson-Davis-Miller. They get married, and after playing rock, paper, scissors, elect to go with the last name of Johnson-Anderson-Davis-Miller-Brown-Jones-Smith-Taylor.

Yikes! That name won’t fit on a driver’s license or a school roll, or even the IRS tax forms (though the government has been very supportive of people’s rights to choose their own names.)

How could we solve such an issue? Well, for starters, if any of the last names are the same, we could use a math trick. For example, Brown-Smith-Brown-Anderson-Smith-Davis-Smith could become Brown^2-Smith^3-Anderson-Davis. A bonus from doing this is that the character above the number “6” on the keyboard would be used more.

Or, we could just take the first letters of all the last names and make a new name out of that. So, in that case, Upton-Richards-Anderson-Davis-Ingersoll-Moore-Williams-Ingle-Thompson could be Uradimwit.

Or perhaps, just perhaps, there is a reason for people using only one last name for centuries.

Nah, that couldn’t be it.  

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Number One Question I’m Asked When People Find Out I’m An Author

It’s interesting to see people’s reactions when they find out I’m an author. What is the number one question I get asked? 

Here it is: “Are you published?”

Believe it or not, that question can be taken several different ways. 

It could mean, “Are you good enough that someone actually printed what you wrote?”

Or it could mean, “Cool! Does that mean your books are available to be read by the public?”

I’m sure it could mean other things, but we’ll look at those for a moment. For years, if you wanted to be able to have the masses have access to your books, you had to go through a publishing company. There are pros and cons in doing that.

On the positive side, generally publishing houses make sure the book is free of errors, the cover is nice, the formatting is inviting and the book is distributed.

On the not so positive side, publishing houses are businesses. A big factor in deciding if they are going to publish a book is “will this sell?” Even if they accept a book, they might “encourage” the author to change parts of the story.

This happened to me. When I first started shopping around The Hidden Sun, one response I received was basically, “we like it, but you need to add some sex and swearing.” Yeah—that wasn’t going to happen.

This next part is a bit thick, but hang in there a moment. In one of my recent classes for my Master’s degree I learned about literary criticism. There is something called “The Frankfurt School” critical theory which basically says that the flow of information is being controlled by governments and large corporations and thereby is influencing cultures. They also lamented that because of this, it was “the end of individualism.”

I told you it was thick. I’ll break it down: the belief is that the common person can’t share their views because information is controlled by governments and corporations.

That may have been true several years ago, but I think that isn’t the case as of this moment. What social media can do is amazing. Seriously. After all, a person could type a blog like this in his room and it could be read by millions of people.

As with any form of technology, it can be used for good or bad. So, how does this relate to people asking me if I’m published?

The fact is, anyone, really, can publish a book and have it available for millions of people to buy with services like Amazon, Smashwords, Wattpad, and so on. No longer are publishing houses acting as gate keepers on what information is shared.
Yet, at the same time, because the process to spread information is so easy, it can make a person leery about quality or credibility of what is being shared.

And that is where I find myself today.

My first two books and my first two short stories were traditionally published. I didn’t pay a dime out of my pocket for them to be available to the masses. In fact, I got paid—a very small amount.

Guess how much I made for my first short story? Just over $5. I’m serious. And that’s all I’ll get from it.

As for published books? This is a ballpark figure, but for a book that retailed for $17.99, I earned less than a dollar a book. And I had to give the publisher the rights to the book to get even that—and I had to make changes the publisher requested.

As I studied the trends and options, I elected that creating my own publishing company and using Amazon as my distributor made the most sense from both a creative and financial position.

Since then, I’ve made a lot more money and I feel I’ve been able to tell the stories I’ve wanted to tell. The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, so I know that what I’m doing is connecting with my intended audience.

My biggest challenge now is how to stand out from the hoard of people who are publishing books using non-traditional routes.

I’ve done several things like become active with author groups, have a professional website, write a blog, do school visits, and other types of promotion. Yet those aren’t the biggest things I’ve done. 

There are four tips I’d offer for anyone who wants to do what I’ve done.

1. Read, read, read and read some more.
2. Write, write, write and write some more.
3. Hire a professional editor.
4. Hire a professional cover designer.

The first two may seem like they don’t connect to the last two, but they do. If you want to be a good writer, you need to read good writing. Then you need to practice—a lot.

And then? Get help! Yes, you’ll have to invest some money, but trust me: people do judge a book by its cover and if your book is full of mistakes, word will spread.

Just for giggles, here are two other questions I’ve been asked when people find out I’m an author:

“Are your books any good?” 

“Why would you waste your time doing that?”

Monday, October 21, 2013

From the mouths (or pencils) of middle school students

A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to be a visiting author at a middle school. Today, I received thank you notes from the students.

These were wonderful! All of them were sweet and thanked me for coming.

As well, I got a kick out of several of the comments.

Here are some of them:

“Can you write a book based on us in 7th period?”

“I hope your next books will get some good reviews.”

“I learned that to become a good writer you need to write.”

“I learned that everyone makes mistakes and you just got to keep trying.”

“I learned that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.”

“Thank you for coming. You were really funny.”

“I learned I needed to use my imagination more.”

“I learned that being an author is cool.”

“I learned being an author is a hard job.”

“I learned that not everyone will like your work.”

“I learned that to be a better writer you have to write, write some more and write even more.”

“I didn’t know they once used typewriters in schools.”

“Thank you for teaching me to try my best and never give up.”

“You’re funny. Come back again soon.”

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Famous saying as interpreted by Swype

My (not so) smart phone has this feature called “Swype.” Instead of having to type each letter individually, I just move my finger from letter to letter and when I’m done with a word, I stop touching the screen.

Like many aspects of technology it is a great idea, but it has room for improvement. Swype will often guess which word you meant and then give you options. However, you can just swype away and it will fill in what it thinks you meant—often with interesting results.

For an experiment, I swyped in some famous sayings without trying to correct what it was guessing. Here are the results:

You can least a footwear to water bit you cannot make him Debbi.

A birth in the hand is Rupert two in the hush.

We have morph rip fear Burr dress outsold.

Am apple a day metros the donut away.

A penny fabric is a parent earned.

Sox of one, half dozen of the outlast.

A stick in tome access none.

A rose why outrigger name would angle a sweet.

All work and how past makes jack a dull bit.

I know or like the back of my hams.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Tons of Free Books Given Away!

I’m super excited to be part of this huge book give-a-way!

I will be giving away two books as part of this event. To enter, simply leave a comment below with an email address so I can contact you if you win.

The contest runs from October 8th until October 15th.

The first book available is my newest release, Wall of Faith.

While serving a Mormon mission in Mexico, nineteen-year-old James Williams is involved in a terrible accident. The horrendous events that follow lead Williams to question not only his reasons for going on a mission, but also why he believes in God.

Wall of Faith is a compelling story of one young man’s search to understand his faith—even when that very faith is put to the test.

The second book available is a special edition of The Hidden Sun—a rare first edition no longer available anywhere else!

(Original 1st Edition Cover)

A faraway kingdom.
A beautiful princess.
A courageous hero.
A ruthless villain.
An impossible choice.

The kingdom of Bariwon is at a crossroads. A new leader threatens to take control of the throne which could throw the land into chaos. The Hidden Sun is an epic tale of courage, heartbreak, battles and redemption.

After you’ve entered, check out some of the other blogs giving books away as well!

Good luck!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

When Advertising Backfires

When I started to market my books, I gained a new appreciation for advertising.

I got it. Without advertising people wouldn’t know there are options for things they need or want. In a lot of ways, advertising is a win-win for the people involved. Advertisers pay places like TV stations, newspapers and internet sites to display something that will entice people to buy their wares. These outlets then make money to support whatever business they are running.

My family gets the Sunday newspaper each week. With all the other ways to get news these days, my wife and I don’t really need the newspaper for news. Why do we get it? For two reasons:

1. For the coupons.

2. For the comics.

I’m serious.

My wife is a wizard when it comes to coupons and the Sunday paper is a great source. She saves enough each week to pay for the cost of the paper several times over.

I love to read the comics each Sunday. But lately, I’ve become a bit disgruntled when a form of advertising has become a hindrance to my weekly reading of the comics.

When pulling the comics out from the rest of the paper there is a full page ad on its own paper that sticks to the comics. At first I just thought it was a coincidence that the ad stuck to the comics, but as it has happened week after week, I’ve realized it is done on purpose and I have no doubt that the newspaper knows this and charges extra money.

The company that does this ad each week sells mattresses. Until this point in time, I had no allegiance to any particular mattress company—I simply don’t buy enough mattresses to have an opinion.

However, when it comes time to buy a mattress, I will not be buying from the company whose advertisement I have to peel from the comics each week. Why? Because the frustration of having to deal with that each week has built up negative feelings toward the company.

Along those lines are the car companies whose ads go something like this:

“Our boss has challenged us to sell more cars than the dealership over in Anytown, USA! Come on in to help us reach our goal!”

This scares the daylights out of me. Why would I want to go there? So I have to deal with a high pressure salesman who is trying to hit a goal so he can look good for his boss?

I think the first lesson taught to advertising companies should be, “Don’t cheese off the people you are trying to sell to.”

Or maybe that’s just me. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Are you quotable?

A friend in a recent Facebook post asked people for inspirational quotes for when times are tough. Before reading anyone else’s comments, I consider the question. The first quote that came to mind was “Faith in myself gives me the strength to carry on.”—John Wetton.

I typed in my response, and even attributed the quote to John Wetton. I realized that many people on that list wouldn’t know John Wetton is the lead singer for the rock group “Asia.” The quote comes from one of their songs. But to me, it didn’t matter. That quote has had a huge impact on my life.

Then I began to read some of the other quotes people posted. It was interesting to see how many people included scriptures. Those who didn’t use a scripture included quotes from people with recognizable names (at least the names were recognizable to me).

Over the next few days, I became more aware of quotes posted on the internet, on walls in classrooms, and even in TV ads. It got me thinking, “Is a quote initially more believable or credible if it comes from a source that is well known and respected?” My answer was a reluctant, “yes.”

Yet some people try to hide, or mask, the source because what was said was impactful, but the source may not be immediately recognizable.

For example, in a recent TV spot promoting a movie, in huge letters it said, “INCREDIBLE!” Then in small font, too small to read even on a large HD screen, the person who said the quote was listed. For all I know, it could have been Biffy the Laughing Dog.

And then sometimes there is a title, of sorts, attached to the person’s name to help the public realize the source is credible. Sometimes it works, other times, not so much.

I saw an advertisement for a book on the internet. The quote was fantastic and highly praised the book. But I’ll admit that the quote lost some of its merit when the person was described as a “Goodreads Reader.” To be qualified as that, all you have to do is post a review on a website called “Goodreads” which really anyone can do.

But the question of being quotable can be taken a step further. “Does a quote have more value if it comes from a source that is well known?” To that, I’m going to say, “Really, not so much.”

I couldn’t tell you who first said, “Don’t spit into the wind,” but I can tell you that quote has had significantly more meaning to me than when a high educated and respected person wrote, “Hermeneutics achieves its actual productivity only when it musters sufficient self-reflection to reflect simultaneously about its own critical endeavors, that is, about its own limitations and the relativity of its own position.”