Guest Post: Bern Dean’s Author Journey

Books 1-4 of Bern Dean’s hit LitRPG series, Eternal Dominion, are finally available on SBT Direct! Plus, Eternal Dominion, Book 9: Acceptance is officially making its audio debut. To celebrate, we’re having a two-week 50% off sale on Books 2 through 4. We also wanted to give you all a peak into Bern’s mad genius. Read on to find out how he made the journey from fan to full-time author.

I don’t remember the “why” — though it was likely the frustration of having to wait for the next book in a series I was enjoying — but back in 2018, I decided I wanted to write my own story. I didn’t know what to expect when I set out to work on my first book; but I was doing ~500 words a day and learning everything on the go, while trying to balance work, kids, and college at the same time. As I started it during the summer, I was making decent progress until school started and studying took over. So, I set it down; but not before I wrote a short start to another series that would sit all but forgotten for a few years.

In 2020, when we all found ourselves stuck inside, and it seemed that the world was losing its collective mind, I went back and looked at my first book, which only needed an ending to complete it. However, I instead decided that I wanted to look at the other ideas I had jotted down, because I wanted to start writing at the beginning of something, rather than refamiliarize myself with something I had already written.

I honestly don’t know why I picked up what would become Eternal Dominion, as it was just a few thousand words that I honestly had not been happy with when I wrote them. They had been more of a vent than a planned story; but pick them up I did, perhaps because I found this draft during a time when venting was crucial to maintaining any semblance of sanity. As I started to write, a benevolent coworker of mine read my drafts for me to help ensure they were halfway decent. It went on that way for a little while, until work picked back up for us, and I once again let life get between me and writing my books.

There I was with two and a half books ready to be edited and published; but no time to write more due to a new schedule and a new, very demanding boss who made sure to tell us that our whole team had almost been fired due to the failures of those above us. The next year saw me do nothing but work, eat, sleep, and watch my kids, as I worked a four-week rotation that had me working three seven-day sets. They went Mon-Sun 8am-4pm, Mon off, Tue-Mon 4pm-12am, Tue-Wed off, Thu-Wed 12am-8am, Thu-Sun off and repeat. Needless to say, I quickly became a zombie, as all I did for entertainment was watch a show here or there and listen to Kindle Unlimited books using the talk back feature on my phone. Those activities were all I could afford both monetarily and timewise during that chaotic period of my life.

Make no mistake — I know many people have been through a lot more. But this is all important context in the lead-up to me finally deciding to take a few days off with my wife. Only I couldn’t enjoy it. My work schedule had me so messed up that it took me four days just to get on a normal human schedule. That was my wake-up call. Incidentally, it was also right after my wife had completed her degree and been hired in a position that would give our family the health insurance my job had been providing. The day she started that job was the day I knew I could finally soon quit my job, and the weight that was lifted off me once we were safely on her health insurance was one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced. Finally, I was able to pick Eternal Dominion back up with the goal of finishing the third book and published it. Since then, I haven’t looked back.

Rather than stressing over keeping my job, I lost myself in writing a story that was bringing joy back into my life. Even though I had no idea if another soul would ever read my work, I was so happy to be writing for myself. What I first released should have been laughed off Amazon for all the errors and mistakes I’d made. But somehow, people found it and forgave me for the absolute mess it was. I learned as I wrote, and later went back to fix many of my issues with Books 1 & 2. To speak candidly, I still go back and fix things, as long as they don’t affect the overall story (though once the audiobook comes out, I pretty much call it set in stone).

Over the years, as I’ve learned, I’ve watched readers love my books, hate my books, and even find them okay at first only to grow to love them. All the while, I held onto a simple motto I first wrote when I was a teenager with no intent of growing up to become a published author, “Write for yourself. Not for someone else, or you’ll never love what you write.”

With three books all but ready to publish and a fourth well underway, I put my first book up for preorder a few days before its release on December 1st, 2021. It had taken me over three years, but I had finally figured out the “how.” The day before the first book released, I put in notice at my job, and told them that I would be gone by the end of May. Some may ask why I did this with no idea if my books would sell, or why I gave them so much notice. To put it simply, if my books failed, I would have gone back to school to finish my degree, and if I had simply left with a two-week notice, the people who would have suffered the most would’ve been my friends at work. My job was in a very specialized field that required months and months of training. As such, there were only four of us on my team at the time. If I had left immediately, there would have been more work to cover than they could have handled.

As for why I waited to publish until I had the first three books done, I wanted to be fully committed to publishing a book once a month from the start. I still stick to that rule and will always have the first drafts of the first three books done before I put any series out for the world to read. It’s how I achieve my goal of sticking to whatever insane timetable I set for myself. Though my own desire to know what happens next also drives me ever forward, and while I will not say that every series I write will follow the release timeline of Eternal Dominion, I will always strive to ensure my readers know when to expect the next book. After all, I hate wondering when the next book of a series I love is coming out as much as the next reader. So, here’s to me keeping it going and hopefully bringing a bit of joy to others along the way!

Books 2-4 of Eternal Dominion are on sale until Tuesday April 11th. Grab them at a discounted rate while you can! And keep an eye out each month for each new installment…