The lonely profession

Filed under: Jeff's Blog — January 22, 2016 @ 5:51 pm

I’ve had some conversations and interactions lately that have reminded me that writing is truly “the lonely profession.” Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining nor is this posting a rant. Being an introvert, I’m very comfortable in my own head (where all my characters live!) and I don’t often feel the lack of human interaction because of friends, my church, and my awesome family.


But I do remember what it was like before my big break happened. I remember and even sometimes still feel the loneliness and the self-doubt that plagues so many of us who spin worlds with our words. Most of you reading this aren’t writers and wouldn’t understand. But I know that there are some reading this blog who are aspiring writers themselves. This one is for you.


My first advice: Stick With It.


In all the literature I’ve read, all the motivational talks I’ve listened to, all the interviews I’ve watched, the common thread of success can be summarized in one word: persistence. Being a writer, you have to be able to tolerate criticism, relentlessly write, read a ton, and interact little with other people. As my wife likes to remind people, I worked in the tech industry for 20+ years before my writing took off. If you are writing for any other reason than you positively, absolutely, cannot not write and your head will actually explode if you don’t, then it’s probably not a hobby or career path you’ll survive. There is a lot of waiting, a lot of waiting anxiously, and a lot of uncertainty. The market is totally saturated with authors in all genres right now since self-publishing became viable, if you hadn’t been able to tell! We’re all competing for the same readers, which means author royalties have been trending down. If you can handle this then by all means proceed to my next paragraph.


My second bit of advice: Create a Mastermind


Before I signed with 47North, I thought writers had an “editor” they worked with. What I didn’t realize was that it truly takes a mastermind to produce a novel. Let me introduce you to mine. First off, there is my wife and best friend Gina. I use her for a sounding board for my ideas and she’s one of my early readers who gives me very critical and helpful advice, especially around dialogue and characters. If any of the character relationships in my books have left you all tingly inside, you can thank her. I also have been lucky to have support from some very important people who help me during my process. One is my sister Emily who has read practically every story I’ve ever written. I think she hasn’t read my high school garbage, but that’s a good thing. She’s been through the wilderness and watched my writing style grow and mature. I also have a few kind-hearted friends from church named Karen, Robin, and Shannon who always get the first crack at early versions of my books before they get submitted to my publisher.


Once I’ve submitted a manuscript, the size of the mastermind increases. I have a great editor at 47North named Jason Kirk who reads my books fast and provides some directional feedback on what’s working and what isn’t. It’s mostly very high level and always helpful. After he’s read it, the next person who looks at it is my dev editor, the talented Angela Polidoro. I’ve nicknamed her “Eagle Eyes Polidoro” because she has an absolutely uncanny ability to spot consistency errors not only within a book, but within a series. She keeps me honest and provides the line-by-line, page-by-page comments that every author really needs. I didn’t even understand what dev editors were (it’s short for ‘developmental editing’) before I started working with them at 47North. They are super, super important. They really help bring the manuscript to the next level and are absolutely worth the cost, in my opinion. But that’s not it. After the dev edit, which catches and fixes a lot of problems, the next step is the copy-edit. Part of my team is a fantastic editor named Wanda Zimba who has been with my books for a while now. She knows my style, knows my books, and finds the pesky grammar mistakes that made it past everyone else. I don’t think I’ve ever published a book that was 100% free of errors. That may be impossible. But you should see all that we do catch. It’s impressive.


There are others who are part of the mastermind as well, which I don’t want to ignore but don’t have time to write about presently (like marketing, publicity, etc). Most self-published authors have to play many or all those roles themselves. But I highly, highly encourage you to get professional editing services (dev editors and copy editors). You can listen to your early readers and that’s helpful. But what an author really needs is someone who doesn’t pull punches and offer concrete advice, page by page, to improve the flow of the story. I wouldn’t have made it without these folks.


My third bit of advice: Stay Home and Write


There is a lot of misperception about the life of an author out there. Very few do book signings. I’ve only done a handful myself. There are some authors I know that wouldn’t write books if they couldn’t meet fans at a signing booth at a convention. I’m perfectly happy staying at home and writing, so I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to this area. Here’s the brutal truth. They are costly and rarely provide the return on investment (ROI) for the publisher or the author. The nice thing about them is meeting your publishing team and fellow authors. When you get a bunch of us together, it can get pretty rowdy. But they are an expense, not an activity that generates much, if any, income.


My last bit of advice: Say Thank You


Now this post was targeting those who want to be authors someday. What about the rest of you? You, my friends, are the audience. You cannot know the good your words can do in lifting up a lonely author’s spirits. A piece of advice I’ve heard regularly and totally ignore is “never read your reviews.” I disagree and I read every single one, the good, the ugly, and the vague. I really try not to let my head get all puffy with the praise and I shrug off the criticism. I try to appreciate all the feedback I get as a gift. If you particularly enjoyed reading a book, take the time to post a review on Goodreads or on Amazon’s website. Your feedback actually helps sell more books. Take a moment to write a personal note to the author if you really, really, really like a book. We all love hearing from our fans. Even better, help spread the word. You are the single most important factor in whether more people read a book. You have tremendous power.


I cannot tell all of you how grateful I am to you, my readers, for allowing me to have this new career. I love being home when my kids get home from school and hearing about their day. I love researching new book ideas and creating new stories to spellbind and entrance you and keep you up at night WAY TOO LATE. You cannot know how much it means to me to have you as a fan.


Thank you for being on this journey with me!




Teaching at 2016 Storymakers Conference

Filed under: Jeff's Blog — December 10, 2015 @ 6:21 pm


I’ve been invited to teach two classes at the 2016 LDStorymakers Conference being held in Provo, UT the first weekend of May. I’ve always heard good things about it. Whether or not you are LDS, you can register and attend the conference. Since it’s primarily for writers trying to improve the craft and understand the publishing industry, I came up with several pitches and two were accepted. The classes I’ll be teaching will be on Saturday, May 7, 2016. And by the way? Brandon Sanderson will be speaking during lunch.


Here are the descriptions of the two classes:

Class#1: Your First Million Words

It’s common to look at the overnight success stories of rare individuals who make it big on their first novel as the goal. But Jeff discovered on his journey that he had to write and toss his first million words before he’d practiced the craft enough to be successful at it. Come to this class for time management, writing advice from an author who worked fulltime at a high tech company, served as a bishop, and squeezed in writing one night a week for two hours…and is now well past his second million words. This class is about finding the will and the time to pursue the lonely road walked by writers.

Class#2: Indie Track: Understanding Amazon

How well do you understand the indie publishing market? Do you know the difference between Kindle Direct and Kindle Unlimited and how they pay royalties? Have you heard you can be paid to write stories set in another author’s world? What’s it like to work with one of the Amazon Publishing imprints (Montlake Romance, 47North, Thomas & Mercer)? Come learn about different resources Amazon has enabled to help indie writers get noticed in a crowded publishing market that is only getting more crowded.

There are many other great classes being offered as well, and you can find the offerings here:

Registration began on December 9.

Other news – I’ve seen the final MUIRWOOD:THE LOST ABBEY graphic novel! The print version will include extra pages at the end showing some original design sketches and the transformation from concept to final art. It’s a great collectible and will be available through Amazon. You can pre-order it here in the US or here in the UK.


(pub date: January 27, 2016)

I have some big news coming next year, so stay tuned! I’m so grateful to all of you who have continued to support me and have shared my books with so many others. I can’t express my gratitude enough. Thank you for making my dreams become real. Thanks for the e-mails, the posts to my blog, the tweets, and Facebook messages and even the notes and cards. You are amazing!

I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year! #ASaviorIsBorn




A thought for this week

Filed under: Jeff's Blog — November 16, 2015 @ 2:04 pm

Thanks to the fantastic Kindle Daily Deal e-mails, I recently picked up the e-book version of Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, authors of Freakonomics and it gave me a lot to think about. There is a passage in their original book that made me seriously consider quitting writing altogether. They said that the publishing industry was rigged and that New York editors and agents controlled nearly all of what was published. Even if you played by all the traditional rules, the odds of succeeding were still stacked against you. But I did not quit and let that paragraph spur me on to pursue my dream. I’m so glad I didn’t quit!


As you know, I love collecting quotes and I found a few treasures in this book.

The first is a quote from George Bernard Shaw:

“Few people think more than two or three times a year. I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.”

I loved that quote! So many times we’re tempted to let others do our thinking for us based on media reports or social media posts. Writing books takes a lot of thinking and I absolutely love the creative process and thinking up a new story.

Here’s another great quote from the book:

“Raw talent is overrated: people who achieve excellence—whether at golf or surgery or piano-playing—were often not the most talented at a young age, but became expert by endlessly practicing their skills. Is it possible to endlessly practice something you don’t enjoy?”

There it is again, the power of persistence, the power of doing what you love.

Several years ago, I wrote a blog posting called “A Manifesto on Virtue” where I described what and why I write. Months after writing it, I was offered a book deal with Amazon Publishing and the rest, as they say, is history. So here’s my little addendum to the Manifesto. This idea struck my powerfully this last week and so I wrote it down on an index card to remind myself. This quote is from me:

I love telling stories that change people. Change the way they look at themselves. Change their thinking about an issue. That pushes them to consider a truth that perhaps they hadn’t considered before. Stories have magic. The right kind of stories change us from the inside. I want to tell those kind!

I’ve had several people ask me already what I’m writing next. I’m not ready to make an announcement yet, but don’t worry, I’m hard at work on another series which will launch next year. My publisher thinks it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. It’s an ambitious story that has stretched me past my comfort zone many times. Stay tuned and listen for the distant sound of waterfalls.

My new series is coming in the spring.



Back home and ready for the launch of VOID

Filed under: Uncategorized — October 14, 2015 @ 3:58 pm

I had a great time at New York Comic Con last weekend. There was a huge banner for the upcoming Shannara Chronicles show as well as over 160,000 visitors. Being an introvert, it was a bit overwhelming, but I had a great time signing books, my new graphic novel, and speaking on a panel with many illustrious authors.


One of the questions asked during the panel was about trends in Science Fiction and Fantasy literature and whether we (as authors) follow trends or try to invent new ones. If you look at the top bestsellers of Fantasy right now, there is a lot of paranormal (I’ve heard that the big money is in writing about billionaire shapeshifters) and a lot of grimdark (fantasy worlds that are violent, amoral, and depressing). Most of us agreed that we don’t try to follow the trends. We write what we’re passionate about.


During the convention, I had the opportunity to talk to lots of people, including an editor I know at one of the top publishing houses as well as my own amazing publishing team. What struck me from multiple conversations is the sense that there are so many new books flooding the genre that it’s getting progressively more difficult to win readers. The publishing industry isn’t stagnating, it’s a vibrant and highly competitive market place. What everyone is trying to figure out though is what makes you (as a reader) tick. I’m not sure you even realize the power you have when you post a review to Amazon or Goodreads, mention a book in a blog or on your Facebook or Twitter feed. The power of word of mouth, from friend to friend, person to person, is so much more influential than stranger to stranger or any other selling method. Every publisher is trying to know what makes readers share the books they love with each other.

I just wanted to thank you, my loyal readers, not only for reading this blog but for reading my books and all the times you’ve mentioned them to someone else. When you do that it’s mostly invisible, but oh so powerful. It’s what drives this interesting market.

In two weeks is the launch of the final book in the Covenant of Muirwood trilogy: The Void of Muirwood. I hope you’ve appreciated 47North publishing these books in such short order. It looks promising that my next series will be done like that too. More on that later!

Now, while it’s fresh in your mind, go tell someone else about a book you’ve liked! I recently enjoyed Charlie Holmberg’s Followed by Frost. I review the books I read on Goodreads to help pass along ones that have Virtus themes.

And leave a comment on how you first discovered one of my books.




(ran into a long-time friend from my Intel days at JFK airport on my way out of New York this weekend!)

What’s next?

Filed under: Jeff's Blog — September 15, 2015 @ 5:30 pm

Today is Pub Day for Book 2 of the new Covenant of Muirwood series- CIPHERS OF MUIRWOOD. This is the fastest cadence I’ve ever released a book series and you can expect more of this in the future. The final book in the trilogy will come out in October. Question for you readers — how many of you are waiting until VOID comes out before starting the series? I have a theory that some are waiting to binge-read the entire series back-to-back. Add a comment at the end and let me know where you fit!


So what’s next? Obviously, the next issue of MUIRWOOD: THE LOST ABBEY. Issue #2 comes out on September 23rd. I got my author copies yesterday and my kids began fighting over it immediately. Even my youngest has been reading it. I love how this story is told in pictures. It’s safe for kids, unless they have a fear of spiders, serpents, and creatures in the mist.


So what’s next after that? I’ll be at New York Comic Con again in October, so stop by and say hi if you’re there.

But I know what you’re really asking. What’s coming next. What am I working on now? Well, it’s a secret. I may have to kill you if you find out. All I can say is…keep a wary eye out for The Queen’s Poisoner. Sshhhh, don’t tell!




Author Appearances

Filed under: Jeff's Blog — August 18, 2015 @ 11:31 am

So today is the launch day of Banished of Muirwood, the first book in the Covenant of Muirwood series and the first of three books that will be published back-to-back, one per month. I’m super excited that 47North was willing to try a new publishing cadence like this. I hope you appreciate not having to wait a year in between my books.



I will be making a few author appearances over the next few months, so I wanted to give you the details. If you happen to be nearby any of these, please come by and say hi and I’ll sign books for you. Here is the schedule so far:

Worldcon (aka Sasquan) – Saturday August 22nd at 3:30pm (Grand Davenport hotel, Spokane, WA)

Ken’s Comics (Rocklin, CA) – Saturday September 12 at 12:00pm (4845 Granite Dr, Rocklin, CA)

New York Comic Con – Friday/Saturday October 10-11 (time TBD) (Javits Center, NYC)

I’ve heard that comic book stores have been running out of Issue#1 of MUIRWOOD: THE LOST ABBEY. I’d recommend calling your local comic book store in advance to reserve a copy. There are several ways you can read this series…in single issue comic books (available at comic book stores in the US and Canada), through comiXology, through your Kindle, and in a graphic novel compilation you can now pre-order here

Stay tuned for more and for news about my next series to launch in June 2016.

Happy pub day! Hope to see you soon!



Special announcement: Muirwood is part of Kindle Worlds

Filed under: Uncategorized — July 14, 2015 @ 9:21 pm

I’ve been keeping this a secret for almost a year. That’s especially difficult when I’m so excited about it. Before I left my day-job, I was approached by the folks running Kindle Worlds with the idea of opening up the world of Muirwood for others to write in. I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that it is not only possible but happening.


What does this mean?

A new Kindle Worlds has just opened up and there are already stories you can buy set in the world of Lia, Sowe, Pasqua, and Colvin. Friends and family have asked me if I was reluctant to let other people “play in my sandbox”. I’ve been reading the stories that were written in time for the launch and I’ve been thrilled to find other authors genuinely trying to capture the magic of the Medium and the “feel” of the world.

Here are the first (of hopefully many) new stories:


Where to purchase them? Click here

As I’ve been reading these new stories, I’ve been delighted at how faithful to the original trilogy the authors have tried to be. I’ve spent hours getting sucked into these stories and, quite frankly, geeking out at them.  This is just the beginning.

If you are a writer, or aspiring to be one, and would like to learn more about writing in the world of Muirwood, please see the Kindle Worlds page dedicated to Muirwood:

I’ll be talking about this more in detail, but wanted to get the word out on launch day! I hope that you will enjoy these new stories as much as I have.

So – what do you think about this? Leave a comment and let me know!

Cover Reveal – The Void of Muirwood (Covenant of Muirwood Book 3)

Filed under: Jeff's Blog — July 9, 2015 @ 6:14 pm

So here is the final artwork for the last book in the new Covenant of Muirwood trilogy. I love how the covers in this series turned out. My compliments and appreciation to French artist Magali Villeneuve on these amazing covers. Didn’t she do an amazing job?

I’m so excited that 47North is publishing this trilogy back-to-back starting in August/September/October. I’ve never released books this quickly before and I’m excited you’ll be able to read the whole trilogy in three months.

Enjoy the cover! I have some more news to announce next week related to Muirwood that I’ve been keeping secret. Stay tuned!

The Void of Muirwood

Here are the links to pre-order the entire trilogy!


The Banished of Muirwood launches on August 18, 2015. Pre-order it: here

The Ciphers of Muirwood launches on September 15, 2015. Pre-order it: here

The Void of Muirwood launches on October 27, 2015. Pre-order it: here

Muirwood: The Lost Abbey (graphic novel) August 26, 2015. Pre-order it: here

Violin Strings of the heart

Filed under: Jeff's Blog — June 25, 2015 @ 5:13 pm

I don’t often plug books or movies or TV shows but I really had to on this one. My family has been captured by “When Calls the Heart”. Even my eight year-old cub scout sneaks in to watch it too, and don’t get me started on the “shipping” my girls do with the cast. I’m a fan of period dramas, but it’s not just the old coal-mining town in Canada that has sucked me into the characters and story (based on the novels by Janette Oke). It’s the Virtus theme that runs through the core.


After binge-watching the first two seasons, my wife told me about an blog done by the producer Brian Bird who talked about all the risks the cast and production goes to create family-friendly content in a world overrun with shows competing with each other to push the boundaries of what is acceptable.

Horror films and series, and edgy adult dramas are the low-hanging fruit in the entertainment business for both actors and crew members. Working on a faith-and-family show like ours is sometimes a risk because you can be stereotyped for doing it (source:

I read another interview where Brian put it this way:

We find with “When Calls the Heart” that it’s a throwback to shows like “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Waltons.” Compared to what’s on right now, it’s radical programming…To me the goal is to tell universal stories.  I believe all human beings have these violin strings running through our souls.  These strings, when you pluck them, they reverberate with certain themes like forgiveness and redemption and sacrifice and courage and banding together to help one another. (source:


Sound familiar? It’s the sentiment I tried to share in my blog posting “A Manifesto on Virtue” years ago ( I chatted recently with the publicist at 47North who had recently finished reading Banished of Muirwood. She said she kept waiting for some Game of Thrones-ish twist that would make her cringe and whimper in the corner like she sometimes does with that show. She loved that my books just don’t go there.

So now I have a new favorite show that I can watch with my family.

Guess that makes me one of the #Hearties too. Any of you seen it yet?


Cover Reveal – The Ciphers of Muirwood (Covenant of Muirwood Book 2)

Filed under: Jeff's Blog,Novels — June 8, 2015 @ 4:20 pm

I’m always fascinated by the process of producing a book and the numerous people involved. For example, I learned this morning that the audiobook recording for Banished of Muirwood began today. I also received the final cover art for Book 2: The Ciphers of Muirwood. Let’s just say, I’m thrilled!

(There is significance to the earring on the character as well. I love being able to add little details like that. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything.)

The Ciphers of Muirwood


The Banished of Muirwood launches on August 18, 2015. Pre-order it: here

The Ciphers of Muirwood launches on September 15, 2015. Pre-order it: here

The Void of Muirwood launches on October 27, 2015. Pre-order it: here

Muirwood: The Lost Abbey (graphic novel) August 26, 2015. Pre-order it: here

Just a reminder that starting in June (this month) your local comic book store can order copies of the graphic novel. To guarantee you get a copy, make sure you call your local comic book shop and ask for one. If you’d like a signed copy, you can call and order yours from my local comic book store, Ken’s Comics and Collectibles in Rocklin, CA: