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