James Floyd Kelly

Writer and Swashbuckler-for-Hire

A short break…

I’m currently “in between” books – a nice feeling for a change given that a few months ago I had 3 books going at once and felt like I had zero breathing room.  I’ve got a couple of proposals in the works and I requested a month’s delay with the newest LEGO robotics book which my publisher seems to be okay with… I’m guessing my “feeling burned out” comments finally got through to someone.

I’m still writing day-to-day… mainly at GeekDad.com and Makezine.com, but I’ve also got a few small writing projects in the wings for O’Reilly that will become a couple of eBooks for them.

The Toronto newspaper Globe and Mail had a short bit on me this morning along with two other dads.  They found me through the GeekDad blog that pointed them to my other blogs and projects.  You can read that short interview here.

I’m not wanting to wait too long between book projects so I’m going to finish up a good proposal this weekend and submit on Monday… hoping the publisher will like it… we’ll see.




June 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

What’s New?

After getting married just over six years ago and moving to Atlanta, my wife made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. She knew that I’d been wanting to change careers and pursue more writing opportunities, and she told me that she’d give me 5 years to try and make a go at writing – the definition of “writing” wasn’t defined, thankfully.

The first 2 years were horrible… few jobs, and what writing opportunities I had were not the kind I really wanted. I had just completed a book (LEGO Mindstorms NXT: The Mayan Adventure) in 2006 and that was opening doors for me, but opening them slowly. What I wanted to be doing was writing maybe 5 or 6 books per year instead of 1 or 2 followed by copywriting jobs for local businesses.

I guess it’s all about patience, really.  Five years ago, I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel… but today, I find myself having to turn away work. It’s a great thing to have work, and I feel guilty at time about having so much of it… but I try to remember that I didn’t just luck into it… it was hard work, making contacts, taking the small jobs that allowed me to work on the big job (singular).

It’s kind of funny, really… in the last year things have really exploded for me.  I’m finally averaging about 5 books per year (maybe 6 this year) which was a goal I set 5+ years ago, never really believing it would happen. But the books are only a jumping off point – they’ve allowed me to get my name out there, meet businesses, organizations, and other writers, and to expand my areas of interest.  Along the way, I ran into companies and individuals that I secretly wished I could one day work with or write for or just be involved in in some way.  Wishes can come true…

As of today, I’ve got some really interesting things going on:

1. My experiences documenting and blogging about my hands-on work with the Make: Electronics book and the Beginning Arduino book got the attention of Make magazine and MakerShed (the retail arm of Make magazine) – in the last few months I’ve been invited to host a new video series (“The Latest in Arduino”) as well as assist Makezine.com (the blog associated with the magazine) with an upcoming redesign of their Arduino-related website.  My interest in Arduino is both for personal reasons but also because I have ideas for books related to this topic and want to know more before I dive in.

2. I got invited by GeekDad.com to be a contributor – this is, hands down, one of my favorite blogs. It’s part of Wired magazine’s collection of blogs, and it’s a perfect fit for me.  I’ve always got things I want to write about but they’re too short or too niche for a book.  GeekDad.com has given me quite a bit of freedom to write about things of interest to me (and hopefully to readers) and this has allowed me to further reach out and meet other writers and professionals in a wide variety of areas. I’ve got a few special projects that may or may not see the light of day that all came from my recent joining with GeekDad.

3. With so much going on, I’ve also had to make some tough decisions.  I stepped down as Editor-in-Chief of TheNXTStep blog (www.thenxtstep.com) – I started the blog 6 years ago and it’s my baby… and always will be.  But it was time to let someone else step in and rock the boat a bit… the blog was becoming a bit stagnant and I think this decision will give the blog some new energy and maybe a new look and direction.  I’m still “on the books” as a contributor, but stepping down has freed up some time that’s needed for other activities.

4. My youngest son, Sawyer, turns 1 in a few weeks. My oldest, Decker, just turned 4. I wanted more time with them and, believe it or not, I’ve got it – even with the newly added projects I’m involved in. I’ve not found more time in my day… I’ve just become more efficient (I hope). Whereas a book used to take me between 4 and 6 months to write, I can now get a book organized and outlined in less time, cutting writing time down to 2 to 3 months.  My record stands at 6 weeks for one book (won’t ever do that again) so I know that somewhere between 1.5 and 3 months is my average.  With that in mind, I’m relying more and more on my Google Calendar to help me schedule things, arrange writing times, and more.


I’m very pleased with my career right now. Back in college I often wondered what I was doing majoring in both engineering and English.  I knew I liked science and technology and I knew I liked to read and write.  But I had no real idea of how to marry those interests and find a job that makes me happy and earns me a paycheck. I’m happy to say that I’m glad I didn’t give up on that goal just because I didn’t know how to make it happen… it just took time.

I’m a niche writer – probably always will be.  I know what I want to write about, what I like to write about, and what I’ll likely NEVER write about.  Given all that, I now have the contacts and the credentials to help me find more work that interests me. For the past few years, I’ve not dreaded Monday mornings. I wake up, get the kids to school, and get to work… it’s nice to have a job that doesn’t usually feel like a job.  I wish everyone could identify their dream job and find a way to make it happen.

June 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Too many distractions…

It’s been forever since I updated this blog, but I really really do have some good excuses!

Of course, beside the fact that I have a young baby that’s getting ready to start walking any day now and a 4 year old who seems to require an increasing amount of attention each day, the writing gig has really taken off.  Four or five years ago I wished daily for enough work to call myself a full-time writer… and of course, be careful what you wish for, right?

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve already contracted a number of technology books that puts me at my desired 5 books per year… right now, as of April 29, I’ve already got 4 books contracted and either started or finished, a 5th getting ready to be signed… and a 6th that one publisher is already driving me crazy to get a proposal sent in so they can sign it.  It’s nice to be in demand!  But wait… there’s more!

I’ve been invited to be a contributor over at geekdad.com – this is one of my favorite blogs that I visit daily, and they’ve got over 1.5 million hits per month … so the exposure this blog could possibly provide is HUGE.  It’s open ended – they allow me to write about pretty much whatever I like (that’s both geek and dad-related).

I’ve also got a couple of secret projects going on with Make magazine and its sister-site MakerShed.com – I’ve wanted to write for Make magazine for a long time, and my first article with them last year was for my CNC book.  But now I’ve got a special writing project I’m finishing up for them that will likely turn into a recurring project.  That’s one project… the other should be hitting the Makezine.com blog next week, but I can’t talk about it until then… it’s a great opportunity and I’ll try to post more details next week after it’s released.

So… keeping up with this blog is definitely difficult.  I haven’t given up on the fiction writing altogether but it’s definitely taken a backseat for now… at least until I can figure out my work schedule and get a better grasp on it.

April 29, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Got a wee bit distracted…

Wow… over 2 months since I posted something here.  Terrible.  But I’ve found that my writing tends to bounce from one project to the next, so I can’t really say I’m surprised at my behavior.  But over the last few months, quite a few things have occurred.

1.  Finished the non-fiction book “Teach Yourself Galaxy Tab in 10 Minutes” – each chapter is meant to be read in 10 minutes or less and teach a critical topic related to the subject material.  In this case, it’s the Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet that I purchased for the book… pretty cool device that runs Android.  Had to write it in 30 days but ended up writing it in 14 because the device didn’t get released on time and I didn’t get my hands on it until mid-Nov and book was due Nov 30.  Finished it… but swore to never write another book on such short notice.

2.  Got a bit deeper into the “Build Your Own 3D Printer” book – it’s about 50% complete but got bogged down over the holidays as my co-author got called away on a job assignment and we just took a break… now we’re back in the saddle and I’ll be writing another chapter tomorrow… due date for all draft chapters is Feb 28 so I’ve gotta get moving.

3.  Two contracts are floating out there – one for an undisclosed title (sorry) and another for the new Motorola Xoom tablet… that one’s not scheduled (according to rumor) for release until April 2011 so that book may get a slow start… but the other one I’m expecting a contract for in the next week or two.  And I’ve got another proposal floating out there that may very well get picked up in Feb or March.

4.  Remember back when I was working on two fiction stories – #1 and #2.  I put #1 away and began work on #2?  Well, I got bogged down with story #2 so I switched back to #1 and went through a 2nd draft rewrite… I was happy enough with the draft 2 to send the first 2 chapters to an agent who is looking for YA fiction… my odds are slim, but it’s out there.

5.  I’m working on a LEGO workbook right now… about 60% complete and I’ve been promising myself I’d finish it by end of Jan 2011.  A bit tight but I’m going to try and get it done.

6.  I got contacted by a new publisher the other day (a BIG name in publishing) asking for book ideas… the contact told me he’d definitely like to do a book with me (a LEGO book, but he also said he’s open to other topics).  That makes 4 publishers that I’m now submitting proposals to (and/or writing for)… very happy about that.

7.  I finished up the Make: Electronics blog that I was running where I was documenting the 36 experiments in that book… finished it up and am now doing another one for the “Beginning Arduino” book – hoping to get some good experience with the Arduino and figure out how to do stuff with it.

8.  Received a request from an existing publisher to write a new non-fiction book proposal targeted at kids.  I can’t disclose the topic yet, but it’s very interesting and I’m guessing a contract will get issued on it the moment I send it in… it’s that hot of a topic.  I’m going to hold off on that proposal for a month or so and get a few writing projects off my plate… way too much going on right now to get another book contract at this time.

So… busy busy busy in Q1 2011.  My goal has always been to write 5 to 6 books per year… wrote 4.5 last year (a roll over) and I’ve already got 3 books contracted and another being prepared… for a  total of 4 books in Q1… so things are looking good for hitting my 6 book mark.  Maybe more.

January 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

NaNoWriMo and More…

There are weeks when I feel I’ve gotten very little written… and then there are weeks like this one where I feel I need more time to put more words down.  In addition to the paying gigs, I’ve started NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which is probably not the smartest thing to have done… way too much on my plate right now:

1.  Just finished ch5 for “Build Your Own 3D Printer” – this book is tooling right along and I should have Draft 1 done by late Dec or early January 2011.  The publisher wants the book on the shelves in March or April, so with revisions and PDF reviews, I’ll need to have all that done by Feb 2011.

2.  A new LEGO workbook – maybe 100 or so pages – has just started up – I’m hoping to have it done by late November or early December.

3.  One of my publishers is asking me to start a new LEGO robot book in December – so I’m having to put together all the proposal material right now.  I’m not writing on it (yet), but it’s 99% certain to get contracted, so I’m trying to put as much time into it now to prepare the way…

4.  My contract is in place for “Teach Yourself the Galaxy Tab…” book – 200-250 pages due on or before November 31… only problem is that the Galaxy Tab (an iPad tablet competitor) isn’t out yet… I won’t be able to get my hands on one until Nov 10th.  That gives me 20 days to write a 200+ page book.  Won’t happen, so I’ll likely lose the bonus they’re throwing me if I finish before Nov 30… it’s a nice bonus but I’m not going to kill myself trying to write this thing in 20 days… no way.  It does pay well, however, even without the bonus, so I’m glad to have this contract.

5.  NaNoWriMo – 50,000 words in 30 days.  Crazy.  But the nice thing is it doesn’t have to be polished… so I’m writing it with speed and daring.  If I like the story, I’ll go back and get it cleaned up and presentable.  I’ll have access to a few agents next year and am hoping to pitch them 2 or 3 of the stories I’ve written and see if they like any of them.  One is finished, the other is 50% complete, and this new one?  I’m only 2340 words into the 50,000… but I like the story so I’m hoping to get it done.

6.  I turned in part 3 of the iPad article series to quepublishing.com – they’ve already published parts 1 and 2, and 3 is with the editors.  I probably need to contact them to get the due date for part 4 but I think I’ll let them contact me… I can use the time for my other projects.  Of course, this means they’ll likely hit me for part 4 as a quick turnaround.

So… lots of writing projects.  Fortunately, 3 of them are paying jobs which cover the other time I’m writing on the personal projects.  The workbook could be considered a 4th paying job, but I won’t see any $ for it until it’s done and available for purchase… argh.

Okay, so… Prologue and Chapter 1 completed for NaNoWriMo… Ch5 completed for 3DP book… proposal 75% completed for new LEGO book… and waiting for Galaxy Tab to be released so I can get started on that book.

November 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Wow… I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I last blogged an update.  But a lot of stuff has happened, including some paying writing jobs that popped up and have taken much of my time.

Here’s what happening…

I’m currently contracted to write a new book titled “Build Your Own 3D Printer” – it will teach the reader the steps to build their own plastic printing machine like the MakerBot or the RepRap.  It’s taking a LOT of my time, as the book requires the reader to cut plywood and perform some electrical tasks with motors and such… I’m having to build my own in order to photograph it and document all the steps to write the chapters correctly.  This book is really taking the most of my available writing time.

In addition to this book, I’m finishing up Parts 4, 5, and 6 for a series of articles I’m writing for quepublishing.com.  These aren’t as time consuming, but they are each 2000 words or more and require two to three days each to research, test, and write.

Next… a contract is in my hands to write a book on the new Samsung Galaxy Tab – it’s like the iPad but smaller – a 7″ screen.  It’s a neat little device and isn’t out yet… but as soon as I get my hands on one in early November, my publisher wants the book written in 4 weeks.  Yes – 4 weeks.  They’re throwing in a nice bonus if I get it done by then and don’t go over a few days… I’m going to do my best, but given that I don’t actually have the device yet, I’m getting nervous as Nov 1 is fast approaching.

Next… a LEGO workbook has fallen into my lap that I can’t say no to… it’s just too cool of a topic (can’t talk about it right now, sorry).  It’s not going to be a long workbook but I must have it done by early to mid December.  Totally possible, but still… more writing time required.

Next… NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – starts Nov 1.  I’ve been putting it off for years, saying that I would participate.  It’s basically writing a novel of 50,000 words minimum in 30 days.  Can I do it?  Sure.  Can I do it with my current workload?  Not so sure.  But I want to do it!  It’s not that the final product has to be publishable… it just has to be completed.  As it stands right now, I’m registering for it and will try it.  It will require, on average, about 1700 words per day (about 7 page per day for 30 straight days).  I’m going to try… TRY… TRY!  But I refuse to kick myself too hard if I don’t make it.  I’ve just got way too much on my writing plate right now.

As for the two fiction stories I’ve been writing?  On hold… and I hate that.  The second one, my favorite, was really running along well and I have full plans to get it finished, especially given that in May 2011 I’ll have access to a large collection of literary agents (many of whom represent kid fiction) at a local gathering and I’m hoping to have one or two stories to present to them… maybe get representation.

So… crazy last quarter of 2010.  Glad to have the writing work, but just completely overwhelmed when I think about how much writing I have to do between now and Dec 31st… gotta get to work.

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Story #2 – Acceptance can be fun…

So, I got a bit backed up this week with a few writing projects that fell in my lap – took my attention away from the fiction stories, but they’re paying jobs, so I don’t feel bad.  My paying writing jobs are building again after a slow period (I’m used to it now) and I’m anticipating being back to a full writing load by the end of the month.  That said, I’m still trying my best to find time to revise Story #1 (for Draft 2) and get Story #2 completed.  Averaging about one chapter per day when I’m writing Story #2, so I’m hoping to have Draft 1 completed by early October.

Story #1 is still moving… nothing new to report.  Revisions aren’t as difficult now because by this point in the story I’d fixed some of the early errors in the plot and the chapters I’m revising now are just fixing dialogue and adding in more scene descriptions in weak areas.

Story #2 is still fun to write… I like the main character – the new kid in school trying to find some friends and just make it through the day/week/month.  He’s got a few new friends, and he’s finally been invited by the local kids to play some reindeer games… I’ve had to add a few chapters to my original outline of 26 chapters so as it stands now, the book is going to be 29 chapters!  And there may be more… what I’m finding is that in each original chapter description, I sometimes put TOO MUCH content into a chapter outline and I’m having to break it up into two chapters.  The story hasn’t really been modified, just the pacing.

Outside of the fiction stories, I’m now working on Article 2 (of a 6 part series) for quepublishing.com.  Got the contract yesterday and it’s due early next week… totally doable.  If I could manage to get a contract each week for 1 tech article, I could certainly fit that into my writing schedule.  Que has talked about it, so I’m brainstorming ideas right now for a tech article series that would be on-going… we’ll see.

My non-fiction tech book has been approved… they’re still haggling over the title, but the editorial board likes the book and wants to get moving on it.  As soon as I get that contract, my writing time will be fairly booked up.  This next tech book is going to be comprehensive… a big book (350+ pages… maybe even 400+ pages).  They’ve given me 5 days to turn in a chapter, but I write faster than that, so I’m still hoping to get the book done early.  That said, they’re also now opening discussions for another LEGO book to start in Q4… oh, hey!  That’s in October!  Uh oh.

It’s nice to be busy again… but I’m already starting to squirm a bit when I look at my To Do list and see all the upcoming assignments.

Anyway, here’s an update on Story #2 – scoreboard and Progress Bar.  Woo Hoo!  Story #2 is MOVING!  Almost 50% done!

Novel #2 – Draft 1
Ch13 – 11 pages – 2863 words
Book – 129 pages – 32765 words

September 9, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Story #2 – Teenage dating troubles…

Hit just over 1000 words on the iPad article for quepublishing.com, which was great… will finish it up tomorrow with another 2000 words before revisions and sending it in on Friday.  Happy with the opening of the article, but I’m no a journalist, so the voice/style is very familiar… not sure if that’s what Que is looking for or if it will involve heavy editing later… but I’d rather figure this out now before finishing the next 5 articles for them.

I didn’t have time to get to revisions for Story #1, but I did get 2000+ words for the new ch11 for Story #2.  The hero had girl problems… past tense… but ch11 has allowed him to mend that fence. Again… loving this new story and can’t wait to get deeper into the main plot.

Also heard today from my editor that the new non-fiction title is 80% approved, but believe it or not… they’re arguing over the TITLE OF THE BOOK!  I mean, that’s GOOD NEWS for me, because it means they don’t have a problem with the content… but the marketing people are asking me for more title options… they WANT to do the book but can’t figure out how to properly title it… I find it all funny, but I’m also a bit nervous that the book could get shut down simply because they can’t come up with a decent title that satisfies the sales team…

I also have a meeting next week (local) to discuss a writing project for teachers… not sure where this project is heading, but it has a LOT of potential and a huge audience, so I’m willing to listen to what they want and see if it’s something I can actually deliver (write/create)… we’ll see…

Today’s scorecard and Progress Bar:

Novel #2 – Draft 1
Ch12 – 9 pages – 2059 words
Book – 118 pages – 29902 words

September 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Story #1 revision work and Story #2 update

A productive day, even though I didn’t get around to working on the article that’s due on Friday.  Argh.  Tomorrow… no excuses.

Today, however, I managed to get the ch15 revision done for Story #1 – almost 1800 words.  Lost a little steam on this story during vacation last week, so I think I’m going to have to go back and re-read the first 14 chapters to get back into the story.

As for Story #2 – broke 3100 words today for ch11… a very cool chapter that had lots of action in it, including some accusations of cheating from the bad team and an invite to join the good guy team… all this is in place to build up the last 2/3 of the book that will focus on the hero developing some relationships in the new town and the big action that will take place towards the last 1/3 of the book.  Very very happy with how this story is moving…

Here’s today’s scorecards and Progress Bars:

Novel #1 – Draft 2 Revisions
Ch15 – 7 pages – 1781 words
Book – 131 pages – 32756 words

Novel #2 – Draft 1
Ch11 – 12 pages – 3159 words
Book – 109 pages – 27843 words

August 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Story #2 – no friends PLUS girl problems…

Just got back from a week+ vacation where I did absolutely zero writing.  It was awesome.  Of course, I had a lot of time to think about the next chapter in Story #2 and today I had to sit down and get it out of my head… a great chapter that I spent a lot of time mulling over in my head.  This chapter has the hero going out for pizza on a date but it doesn’t end well… at all.  Not only does he not have much in terms of friends at the new school, but the girl he likes (and she likes him, too) is now upset.  Typical teenage drama and great for this chapter.

Hoping to get back into the swing of things tomorrow by tackling a revision of the next chapter in Story #1… and maybe get to ch11 in Story #2… but I also have an article due (2000 words) by Friday that I started today but didn’t even get 1/4 done… so tomorrow that’s on the agenda.  Gotta. Get. It. Done.

The contract approval on the new non-fiction book is with the editorial board now and I’ve been told to expect a yes/no answer by end of week… but also to expect a yes.  They want to do this book, so I can’t imagine what it will take for them to say no… but it has happened in the past, so who knows?  I’d really like to do this book as they’re giving me 5 days per chapter (when all I really need is 2 or 3, max) – this means the book will get done early and maybe even out the door by year’s end… but only if they get me moving on the book soon… like by mid Sept.

Anyway, stats and progress bar for Story #2 today only – check out that big ‘ol 35%!  Over 1/3 done with the new book – woo hoo!

Novel #2 – Draft 1
Ch10 – 11 pages – 2636 words
Book – 97 pages – 24684 words

August 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment