Thursday, December 12, 2013

Reason for Optimism

Preface: I wrote this post for a fellow author looking for a guest blog.  She was looking for something uplifting and it sounded like she was looking for some encouragement, so I took a few hours out of my day to pen this little post.  That was in October.  I figured I’d make some minor edits and post it as my own…since it is. J
“I’ve missed more than nine thousand shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost three hundred games.  Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”
Most of you might recognize this Michael Jordan quote.  It’s come to be one of my favorites, not only because it’s about one of our most iconic athletes sharing his human fallibility, but also because of the simple truth in those words.  I’m new to the writing business and can see where people would get frustrated with the constant work that seems so slow to pay dividends, but I knew that writing was a career steeped in disappointment and aggravation when I set out on this path and tried to prepare myself for it.
I’ve always enjoyed the creative process.  I spent my childhood daydreaming.  I suppose I spend my adulthood daydreaming, too.  I just put it in writing and spend hours refining it into a finished product.  I could have written the full Proceena Trilogy, never published and enjoyed every moment.  But, I’d have missed out on the excitement of others reading Procythian Reign and sharing their enthusiasm for it.  It’s so rewarding to chat about their favorite character or how surprised they were by a plot twist.  It feels like Christmas and my kids are going to open a really cool gift I want them to enjoy!
But writing can be a fickle master.  There are all the long hours writing, rewriting and finishing just one work, something that will be repeated every time a new piece is written.  Then there are things like getting cover art, formatting your document for e-publishing and setting up your print book.  And this is the easy part.  The Twitter Machine consumes hours of my day.  There’s marketing research to do and business infrastructure to build.  I have become one with my phone and carry my computer everywhere I go, just in case I can sneak a few minutes to compose a review request or (Heaven forbid) write.  Then, there are the public appearances.  And, through it all, the wheels of progress seem to turn a little slowly.  Ok, sometimes it seems like they’re not turning at all.  But, that’s where Mr.  Jordan’s famous quote becomes so important. 
We are all human.  That means that we are all fallible.  Each and every one of us has failed at something, and, on some level, everything we’ve ever done.  George Washington’s first command was surrounded and captured and resulted in an international incident that sparked The Seven Years War.  Abraham Lincoln failed in business two separate times, lost eight elections and suffered a nervous breakdown before being placed at the helm of this nation in one of its most pivotal moments.  His future right hand man, Ulysses Grant, had resigned from the army to be with his family and failed at farming and real estate before going to work in his dad’s leather store to await destiny’s call. Winston Churchill was a failed First Lord of the Admiralty of World War I notoriety whose brain child was a campaign to open a new front in the Turkish Dardanelles.  The resulting battle, Galipoli, is still considered one of the great tragic wastes in a war full of great tragic wastes.
We all fail.  But, it is through failure that we grow and get better.  I have a new book, The Proceena Crusade, getting painfully close to a final rough draft.  That story has already undergone huge rewrites and cuts with more to come.  And, it’ll be a better, stronger book for the experience I have had with Procythian Reign.  When it’s time to publish, I’ll know ahead of time pitfalls and struggles I had the first time around, and will, hopefully, avoid most of them. 

The business of writing should be fun.  After all, isn’t that why we do it, to do something we love?  How many times have people of all walks of life said: “That’s the ticket, if only I could do that”?  Is it really any surprise that it’s so damned hard?  We just have to keep our butt in the chair and fingers on the keyboard.  We’ll stumble and bumble at times, but we’ll learn, and, with determination, we’ll persevere.  That’s the key to “success”. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Report from Necronomicon, Part II

Here's some on-going coverage of Necronomicon 2013.  It was an awesome weekend, and I met some awesome people.  But I wanted to send a special shout-out to my best friend and wife Melanie Diaz for helping to make this a wonderful weekend even better! It was her birthday this week.  So, happy birthday, baby.  I'm such a lucky man to have you.  :-* 

As for rumors about her presence in Procythian Reign...I'll deal with them shortly.

Someone asked me if Leo was supposed to resemble me.  I don't see the resemblance.  Do you?


This is my lovely bride!  And for those of you wondering:  This woman...
 ...is not this woman.  I've known my beautiful wife two-and-a-half years.  Laura is 12 years old.
 My very first sale and autograph.
 Mel sporting her Procythian Reign shirt!
 
Here she is visiting the TARTUS.
 
 
 

Laura Clabar and Leo Krisminski headed for the costume ball.
One last pic!
 
What an amazing time we had at Necronomicon! I can't wait to do it again next year! I'm also looking into other conventions, though none are yet confirmed.  I wanted to send a special thank-you to Duane of the Comic Club Inc. http//www.comicsclub.com/
Have a great weekend and I'll post again, soon.
 
 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Report from Necronomicon

What an awesome weekend! To those who came out to meet with us, it was wonderful meeting you all. Necronomicon was an unqualified success, and I can't wait to do this again! For those who couldn't make it, there are pictures:
The merchandise arriving!Open for business! 
Thanks to Tampa's Bravest keeping us safe.
A family affair: my daughters helping dad on the last day. My son helped the first, but is camera shy!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

October is Going to be a Big Month!


It has been eight months since Procythian Reign was released with little fanfare and no advertising budget.  But things are changing.  The rust has begun to break loose and the wheels of progress are beginning to turn.

Reviews have started coming in, honest reviews.  My friends and family have always been supportive and complementary, but I could never see their opinions as unbiased.   Now, I am getting the opinions of bloggers and reviewers that I don’t know.  So far, it’s all good.

The Masquerade Crew is hosting a book blast for Procythian Reign.  We’re embroiled in their Cover Wars and Sci Fi Scavenger Hunt competitions.   There has been tons of new traffic and lots of new Twitter followers.  People are Tweeting about Procythian Reign and are excited about it!  I have found a couple of fans, and have chatted with people who are eager to read Procythian Reign.    

These fans have helped to inspire me (I’m talking about you Chris Dailey) to do some really cool promotions that will be coming up at the end of this month, but more about that later.  People are contacting me about the twists and turns of Procythian Reign.  They chat with me about their favorite character and things they hope to see in the sequel.  It’s a great feeling and really makes me hope that I’m on the right path.

My first public appearance as a writer will take place later this month.  I will be at the Necronomicon Convention here in Tampa from the 18th-20th signing copies of Procythian Reign and hosting a giveaway for autographed copies of The Proceena Crusade when it’s released.  I will be hosting another on-line giveaway for those who don’t live close enough to the Tampa Bay area to make it out.  I want to run them concurrently, but I have some logistic issues to work out.

And then, there’s The Proceena Crusade!  I have contracted the immensely talented Alvin Epps to begin designing a cover.  He did such an awesome job with Procythian Reign and I know it’s going to look great.  More importantly, I’ve had a breakthrough doing the rewrites.  I tend write in a general direction and lean on rewrites and editing to make my story the one I want.

In the case of The Proceena Crusade, I had a lot of specific issues to resolve.  I’ve fixed those problems and have begun to hammer it out into a story ready for polish.  I’m super happy with it and very excited to see the final product.  It’ll take a lot of doing, but I’d love to have it ready for release by my birthday in December.  We’ll keep our fingers crossed!

That’s all for now, but stay tuned.  More to follow!

Necronomicon Website:  http://www.stonehill.org/necro.htm


 

 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Joy of Writing


I have spent the last couple of posts talking about the hardships and difficulties of being a new independent writer.  We’ve covered the cost, both in time and treasure this career can be.  And, I have, at risk of sounding whiney, discussed in great detail some of the many frustrations and pitfalls of writing. Today, I wanted to talk about how much fun it is, and how much fun I’m having!

The last couple of weeks have been super exciting for me and my career as a writer.  First and foremost, I have scheduled my first public appearance as a writer!  I am going to be at Necronomicon here in Tampa from October 18th-20th signing autographs and hosting a giveaway for Procythian Reign’s soon-to-be released sequel, The Proceena Crusade! http://t.co/zcZ9fri6wA   Please, tell any lover of science fiction and fantasy about this great event, whether they come for me, or not.  Also, stand-by for me to announce at least one and hopefully two more appearances between now and the end of the year! 

I have spent quite a bit of time out peddling my book and have met some amazing people both here in town and from all around the country via the internet.  These people (you know who you are) have been wonderfully supportive.  I’ve had people help get me into Necronomicon and the other venues I have yet to confirm.  Reviews are beginning to come in and (though they’re few) they’re all positive, so far.  I’m anxiously waiting for more, but I’m really excited about the feedback I’ve gotten. 

More and more people are reading my book and discuss it with me.  I cannot tell you the feeling I get when I can see that people are “getting it”.  It gives me chills and makes me think that maybe I am carving out a niche with Procythian Reign.  But, my proudest moment yet has come from a reviewer who was reviewing Procythian Reign and also doing a character interview.

I read the questions and knew right away that this was a Leo Krisminski interview.  Leo is one of the main villains in Procythian Reign and a sentimental favorite of mine.  I was so proud of that interview. http://t.co/AbOe6xWUvc   It was all Leo and spoke straight to his grounded, no nonsense nature and the reviewer loved it!  She told me Leo was one of her favorites!

This was a stranger!  This was someone who didn’t know or owe me anything!  I had to be one of ten plus writers with whom she was dealing.  Yet, she took the time to drop me a note and pay me what I could only take as a sincere compliment.  I got those “she gets it” chills again.  And, I knew then:  this is for me! Thanks, Lisa.

Procythian Reign and The Proceena Crusade are the first of many yarns I intend to spin.  What a great feeling and what a great way to make a living.  Thanks to all of you who make this chapter of my life such a special one, and here’s to hoping I can keep reaching out to and entertain you!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Please Don't Forget Them (Revisitied)


Today is Nine Eleven.  I had an idea for a blog post that I was going to publish, but realized that this might not be the day for that.  Today is the day our country stops to remember the sacrifice and loss  suffered twelve years ago today.  We lost 2,977 people on that bright and clear September morning. 343 firefighters, 60 NYPD and Port Authority Officers 15 EMTs and 3 court officers were among the dead.

It should be no surprise to anyone reading this that Nine Eleven is a little more hallowed in the police and fire cultures.  I thought about how I could honor these brothers on this day of remembrance and remembered a post that I had written last month, following the death of nineteen smoke jumpers in Arizona.

I didn't spend any time "promoting" the blog post because I often feel conflicted about sharing this kind of thing on my author site.  After all, this is supposed to  be about marketing and self-promotion.  Mixing that with the hallowed sacrifices of so many brave and noble servants seems to be in poor taste, but I also feel like I can give these brave men and women a voice.

So, here is the repost of my blog of just a month ago, Please Don't Forget Them:

I have been away from the blogging and self-promoting scene to handle mistakes made as a rookie indie writer and to get married.  I’ve been working very hard behind the scenes trying to prep for my “triumphant return” to the writing scene.  I had a blog post semi-plotted in my head and was ready to start working on that this week with my new “writer’s office hours” schedule I’m implementing. 

Instead, I find myself troubled by events far from home.  Nineteen firefighters were killed battling a wildfire in Arizona.  I struggled with posting something about the good work and sacrifice performed by first responders all around the country during the horrible week of the Boston Marathon Bombing and explosion in West, Texas. 

I wanted to talk about firefighters, police officers and EMS providers.  I wanted to take the time to honor those who’ve so publicly and, in recent weeks, all too tragically, served their community.  I wanted to, but I didn’t.

Many of you reading this post know that I am a firefighter by trade.  So, I’ve begged off, as a conflict-of-interest, any attempt to put into words what it means to serve.  Furthermore, I have trouble writing a post about the real sacrifice of those who’ve fallen in a blog created as a tool for self-promotion. But, I have a chance to give these people a voice to the precious few who read this blog, and I feel obligated to take a moment to honor them for what they’ve done and why they do it, so here goes:

It has been said that a person who loves his job, doesn’t work a day in his life. It is a very select few who can say that they get more satisfaction from the work, itself, than the paycheck received for doing it.  Thousands of rescue workers can be found among the ranks of these lucky few.

I assure you that no matter the pay scale or the compensation offered, the overwhelming majority of those who wake up every day to protect and serve do it for so much more than the couple of hundred or thousand dollars they bring home in their paycheck. Who grows up wanting to be a cop or firefighter for the money? 

How many kids have you heard say: “I want to me a firefighter so I can have good healthcare benefits, stable job and a good retirement” or “I can’t wait to be a cop, so I can make lots of money”? Who does that?  The fact is, no one does. They do it because the work is exciting, challenging and rewarding unto itself.  They do it because they want to make a real difference, because they want more out of life than a paycheck.  They do it so they can point to a life of service and say, “I did that”.

It’s a good thing, too.  Communities could never pay these men and women their true worth. How much would it take to get you to crawl into an environment so dangerous and toxic that a simple equipment failure could be fatal?  What would be your price to kneel in some dying stranger’s living room, trying to cheat Death with the patient’s family looking on and pleading for you to save him? What’s a fair rate to walk up to a suspicious stranger in a dark alley with nothing but a vest, a badge and your street sense to protect you?

Yes, there is a price for leading this fulfilling life. It is an unforgiving and often cruel mistress.  Just look at the headlines from Boston, Houston, West, and, now from Yarnell Hill, Arizona.  Not many can say they go to a job where even a colossal mistake will lead to anything more severe than termination. 

But “we lucky band of brothers” know that in the chaotic environment of America’s streets, the slightest mistake can prove to be the one that kills you.  Working a motor vehicle accident?  You’d better watch that traffic.  Pulling someone over?  Is this car stolen?  Do the occupants have weapons? If you get into a tussle with the driver, is the passenger going to jump on your back? Crawling into a burning building?  Don’t let go of that wall, that hose, or, most of all, your partner, or you may never find your way out.

Worst of all, you can do it just as you’re supposed to do it—and get killed anyway.  It’s part of the deal.  So are PTSD, a skyrocketing divorce rate, and heart and respiratory disease.  Cancer is not recognized in my state as a “presumed illness” but how can you crawl into rooms filled with cyanides and carcinogens for thirty years and expect anything different?  Ask your average firefighter how many days it takes to wash the odor of smoke from his skin and hair, or how long after a working fire can he still smell the smoke in the cab of his fire truck.

Sleepless nights, missed meals and behavior disorders are also the price of a career of service.  There will be times you work so hard you’ll want to (or will) vomit.  You’ll see horrific scenes that you’ll still be able to recall with perfect clarity decades later.  You’ll come home so tired from a night of back-to-back calls that you can barely sit up.  Sometimes you’ll go straight to the second job that supplements your modest income. Other times you’ll be expected go from a scene of unmitigated horror to Family Guy in the course of an hour. Only a special few will truly understand you and almost all of them will wear the uniform.

Which brings me to the last part of this fulfilling life: every time you get up and go, it’s to work with the greatest bunch of guys and gals in the world.  These are brothers and sisters who’ve shared your pain and joy, people who know what it’s like to place the comfort and safety of those you’ve sworn to protect above your own.  These are people who have been and will be there for you when it matters most: marriage, births, divorce, illness and death.  They’re extended family who will be there for your family at home when you can’t.

Whether it’s climbing into a fire truck, a police car or an ambulance, there’s no job like it.  And I like to think that those who lay down their lives doing this great job have lived richer, fuller lives for it.  I like to think they knew what they were doing when they woke up for work that fateful morning: living The Dream and loving The Job.  I hope they were as excited to go to work that day as they were their very first day.  And, I hope they enjoyed every moment in between.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

It Takes Money to Make Money


When I wrote my last blog post, I did so with an eye towards a follow up.  Like It’s a Long Way to the Top, this post is not intended to be a complaint.  Everything in life is a trade off, and for all that is lost by being an independent writer, there are a lot of potential gains that have the potential to more-than offset them.

I have always heard the expression that it takes money to make money.  It’s something that I’ve always taken for granted.  After all, if you don’t have money to invest in a company or to buy that rental property, how else are you going to profit?  In many ways, I’m finding that writing is very much the same.

I was recently talking to a friend about my writing.  He was asking about how it was going and about how much money I was making.  I spent the next two minutes rattling off all of the things on which I had to spend my hard-earned money.  The list was long and (likely) incomplete, and I felt obligated to give him the same caveat I gave you: I’m really not complaining, but writing is a very real investment.

I’ve been working diligently on the upcoming sequel to Procythian Reign, The Proceena Crusade.  There are a lot of rewrites to do and it’s been very time-consuming.  I was hoping to get my first draft off to the editor by Labor Day, so I could get The Proceena Crusade out by Halloween.  But, I soon realized that time wasn’t my only hurdle.

I started to add up all of the things that I was going to have to do:  There’s my cover art.  I’m super happy with the work Alvin Epps http://alvinepps.com/ has done for me, and I highly recommend him to anyone looking to have a great cover for his/her book.  But, talent isn’t cheap and I want my cover to jump out and be a microcosm of the story, itself, so I have to pay for it.

I have to format my book and get a professional editor.  I cannot tell you how many mistakes I found in Procythian Reign’s final draft!  Most of them were small, but a few were glaring and downright embarrassing.  I had had Procythian Reign edited by a friend who was very supportive, but his focus was on content, not grammar.  The cost of a good editor seems to be north of a thousand dollars—ouch!

Then there’s the advertising!  I was able to invest the first of many dollars in the promotion of Procythian Reign.  It’s been a modest amount, so far, but I can see a number of investments over the next couple of months that might take more than I’ve spent on Procythian Reign, to date!  But I’m not worried.  And, I’m not complaining.

I’m not just investing in Procythian Reign. I’m investing in my career as a writer.  I believe in my product and I’m producing more and more of it all the time.  The Proceena Crusade is in post production.  I have five chapters of the first draft of another, unrelated story written and an idea for yet a third fresh story.  There will also be a third and final installment to the Proceena Trilogy. So, yes, I’m losing money right now, but I’m just beginning this fledgling career.

I’ve often heard that most businesses lose money their first two years.  I have the support of some really special people.  Every day gives me more exposure and more followers on Twitter.  Every story gives me another avenue to attract a whole new host of potential readers.  Every contact I make brings me closer to business success. I have faith.  This endeavor will succeed!  And, when it does, I know it won’t be just because of me.  
It will also be because of the many wonderful people who have helped me along the way.  There's, of course, my wonderful wife and awesome kids, a cadre of friends and family, my small but growing fan base and I can't tell you how many wonderful independent authors and bloggers on Twitter! 
Thanks to all of you who take the time to help or  encourage me or take the time to read this blog.  It's because of you that this mission won't fail!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It’s a Long Way to the Top


One of my favorite bands says “It’s a long way to the top, if you wanna rock’n’roll”.  Well, I’ve been officially published now for six months and, in that short time, I’ve spent I-can’t-tell-you-how-many hours promoting Procythian Reign.  In even this brief half-a-year I’ve spent as an independent writer, I think I can say: it’s pretty long way to the bottom of the heap, too.

I’m not writing this for sympathy, or to publicly bemoan just how taxing and difficult it can be to be a writer.  In fact, every article by every author I’d ever read on the subject told me to expect a long, hard, frustrating road.  So, I anticipate nothing different for myself.  And, though I haven’t paid any real dues to speak of, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that writing can be a demanding, time-consuming task that yields some pretty slow results.

I’ve read a few books about how to become a literary commercial success.  They’ve been informative and helpful.  I’ve gleaned much inspiration from their ideas.  I’ve incorporated as many as I can and dedicated as much time as I could spare and some I couldn’t into getting into the public forum.  But all of that work which has yielded little in the line of commercial success has made me come to a conclusion: These people must not have day jobs or they wear a cape and tights under their going-out clothes.  I do as much as I physically can, but there just aren’t the hours in the day.

I’ve decided that I need an assistant.  (How I'm going to pay him is another story for another blog.)  I have plenty of work for even a full-timer.  I could keep him busy for weeks just filling out review requests.  That isn’t counting the hours I spend on Twitter and researching promotional opportunities.  I could really use a hand putting together the second Procythian Reign trailer I’m trying to produce.  There’s also a Facebook page which has gone sorely neglected, and a new author-based website that I’ve been trying to get off the ground.     

Of course, only I can do the interviews and more personal correspondences with people who have actually responded to review/interview requests.  I need to be the one to dedicate more time to working on this blog and cultivating my small but growing fan base.  It’s my face that should be out there peddling Procythian Reign print book to small book stores all over town.  I need to do the face-to-face and make those precious inroads into the book industry.

I also need time to do something novel: write.  I’ve had a first draft of Procythian Reign’s sequel, The Proceena Crusade, written since before I released Procythian Reign.  The problem is that I am spending every moment I can steal away from my other responsibilities trying to generate excitement for my current book, I have had precious little time to work on my newer projects.

But I swear I'm not complaining.  In fact, I’m very happy to say that there’s a lot of reasons to be excited about the direction my career as a writer is taking.  I am working 10-12 hours on my off days(sometimes more).  The kids are back at school, so there’s more time, now.  Reviews, positive reviews, are beginning to trickle in.

I’m beginning to get opportunities.  I’m making contact with people who can help me reach out to readers!  Many of these are coming from visiting the local book stores.  Even the ones that don’t carry my book are putting me in contact with those who can help me, and I expect to have some very exciting news in the near future!

So, there is real sign of life! I’ve been able to do a number of interviews, including a character interview of Eric Phillips of which I’m really proud.  I can see a future for my Facebook page. I’m expecting that trickle of reviews to reach a steady stream in the near future! I have done a guest blog for another writer and think I’m getting the hang of this blogging thing. 

Yes, there’ll be more posts…a lot more in the upcoming weeks and months.  I already have an idea for the next one.  But I’ll have plenty of blog material coming up soon and I have more ideas for future installments of Greetings from Proceena!  Thank you to all of those who’ve taken the time to follow this blog and welcome to all who have just started.

It may be a long way to the top, but I plan to enjoy the ride.  I hope you’ll take the trip with me!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Please Don’t Forget Them


I have been away from the blogging and self-promoting scene to handle mistakes made as a rookie indie writer and to get married.  I’ve been working very hard behind the scenes trying to prep for my “triumphant return” to the writing scene.  I had a blog post semi-plotted in my head and was ready to start working on that this week with my new “writer’s office hours” schedule I’m implementing. 

Instead, I find myself troubled by events far from home.  Nineteen firefighters were killed battling a wildfire in Arizona.  I struggled with posting something about the good work and sacrifice performed by first responders all around the country during the horrible week of the Boston Marathon Bombing and explosion in West, Texas. 

I wanted to talk about firefighters, police officers and EMS providers.  I wanted to take the time to honor those who’ve so publicly and, in recent weeks, all too tragically, served their community.  I wanted to, but I didn’t.

Many of you reading this post know that I am a firefighter by trade.  So, I’ve begged off, as a conflict-of-interest, any attempt to put into words what it means to serve.  Furthermore, I have trouble writing a post about the real sacrifice of those who’ve fallen in a blog created as a tool for self-promotion.

But, I have a chance to give these people a voice to the precious few who read this blog, and I feel obligated to take a moment to honor them for what they’ve done and why they do it, so here goes:

It has been said that a person who loves his job, doesn’t work a day in his life. It is a very select few who can say that they get more satisfaction from the work, itself, than the paycheck received for doing it.  Thousands of rescue workers can be found among the ranks of these lucky few.

I assure you that no matter the pay scale or the compensation offered, the overwhelming majority of those who wake up every day to protect and serve do it for so much more than the couple of hundred or thousand dollars they bring home in their paycheck. Who grows up wanting to be a cop or firefighter for the money?

How many kids have you heard say: “I want to me a firefighter so I can have good healthcare benefits, stable job and a good retirement” or “I can’t wait to be a cop, so I can make lots of money”? Who does that?  The fact is, no one does. 

They do it because the work is exciting, challenging and rewarding unto itself.  They do it because they want to make a real difference, because they want more out of life than a paycheck.  They do it so they can point to a life of service and say, “I did that”.

It’s a good thing, too.  Communities could never pay these men and women their true worth. How much would it take to get you to crawl into an environment so dangerous and toxic that a simple equipment failure could be fatal?  What would be your price to kneel in some dying stranger’s living room, trying to cheat Death with the patient’s family looking on and pleading for you to save him? What’s a fair rate to walk up to a suspicious stranger in a dark alley with nothing but a vest, a badge and your street sense to protect you?

Yes, there is a price for leading this fulfilling life. It is an unforgiving and often cruel mistress.  Just look at the headlines from Boston, Houston, West, and, now from Yarnell Hill, Arizona.  Not many can say they go to a job where even a colossal mistake will lead to anything more severe than termination.

But “we lucky band of brothers” know that in the chaotic environment of America’s streets, the slightest mistake can prove to be the one that kills you.  Working a motor vehicle accident?  You’d better watch that traffic.  Pulling someone over?  Is this car stolen?  Do the occupants have weapons? If you get into a tussle with the driver, is the passenger going to jump on your back? Crawling into a burning building?  Don’t let go of that wall, that hose, or, most of all, your partner, or you may never find your way out.

Worst of all, you can do it just as you’re supposed to do it—and get killed anyway.  It’s part of the deal.  So are PTSD, a skyrocketing divorce rate, and heart and respiratory disease. 

Cancer is not recognized in my state as a “presumed illness” but how can you crawl into rooms filled with cyanides and carcinogens for thirty years and expect anything different?  Ask your average firefighter how many days it takes to wash the odor of smoke from his skin and hair, or how long after a working fire can he still smell the smoke in the cab of his fire truck.

Sleepless nights, missed meals and behavior disorders are also the price of a career of service.  There will be times you work so hard you’ll want to (or will) vomit.  You’ll see horrific scenes that you’ll still be able to recall with perfect clarity decades later.  You’ll come home so tired from a night of back-to-back calls that you can barely sit up.

Sometimes you’ll go straight to the second job that supplements your modest income. Other times you’ll be expected go from a scene of unmitigated horror to Family Guy in the course of an hour. Only a special few will truly understand you and almost all of them will wear the uniform.

Which brings me to the last part of this fulfilling life: every time you get up and go, it’s to work with the greatest bunch of guys and gals in the world.  These are brothers and sisters who’ve shared your pain and joy, people who know what it’s like to place the comfort and safety of those you’ve sworn to protect above your own.

These are people who have been and will be there for you when it matters most: marriage, births, divorce, illness and death.  They’re extended family who will be there for your family at home when you can’t.

Whether it’s climbing into a fire truck, a police car or an ambulance, there’s no job like it.  And I like to think that those who lay down their lives doing this great job have lived richer, fuller lives for it.  I like to think they knew what they were doing when they woke up for work that fateful morning: living The Dream and loving The Job.  I hope they were as excited to go to work that day as they were their very first day.  And, I hope they enjoyed every moment in between.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A. Wrighton Innterview

 
 A. Wrighton is the author of the hot new novel, Defiance Dragonics and Runics Part I.  I have given a several interviews, but this is the first one I have ever conducted.  She has been awesome to interview and I wanted to thank her for this opportunity.

 



Give a brief bio of yourself, including your earliest aspirations of being a writer and anything else you want to share about your journey to authorship.

I was born and raised in Southern California (Go Trojans!) but took the opportunity, once older, to live and travel all across the Continental US (43 states down...7 to go). I’ve always been writing or telling stories; my mother has a bunch of examples and even saved the first one I ever wrote. It’s on that huge lined paper for Kindergarten with the dashed middle line. It was about a giraffe whose neck was really short but could fly. Don’t ask me where I got that from...

During my undergrad years, I wasn’t really pursuing writing head-on, I did it on the side because I was a double major in international relations/linguistics and history. Then, this teacher in a writing course pulled me aside and said I would be wasting talent if I didn’t answer my calling and write. She jokingly (I think) threatened my grade if I didn’t switch to a double major with English. I did switch, and I am ever grateful to that professor as she led me onto the path to earning my M.F.A. in Creative Writing.

Who or what do you consider to be your most significant influences as a writer?

History is my most significant “what” influence. Everything I write is steeped in history in one way or another. My works might not seem similar when you line them up - historical fiction, paranormal young adult, fantasy, sci-fi - but they all have history in them, in depth, somewhere.

My most significant “who” boils down to three authors (my fave books of theirs I’ve listed, too):  Jane Austen (Pride & Prejudice), Ernest Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises) & Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried).

What is it about fantasy that’s so alluring?  Are there other genres that you would like to write?

Fantasy is alluring because you’re encouraged to break the mold - bend the rules - and be original. I love doing that and when I get a genre requiring it I’m all pen and paper! I also love the hint of romance there always is with fantasy. There’s something indescribable about being taken into a world with magic and wonders that we will never see and with creatures we are never going to behold anywhere else. I just want to be a part of spreading that kind of experience.

Other genres I write include historical fiction, paranormal, young adult, sci-fi, and drama/comedy for screenwriting (TV & Film).

Which do you prefer writing, heroes or villains?  Why?

It really depends on the story. With my fantasy series, Dragonics & Runics, I am loving writing the Chancellor and his wife. It’s not that I like how evil and sadistic they are - but I like bringing them to life to really drive home how scary a situation where people like the Diesdens get into a power/control situation and start destroying lives.

I actually, normally, prefer writing the secondary characters. I know that sounds ridiculous but there’s something just plain fun about fleshing them out and making them compliment the story and the setting. It’s a fun little challenging puzzle, if you will.

Do you have a set writing schedule?  What are your biggest challenges as a writer?

Yes and no. I work a full time job in the entertainment industry so I write before work (before I get my munchkin off to school), then I write on breaks, and then (bless my family’s hearts) I write when I get home. People I have worked with always joke that I hand stuff in at odd hours. Hey, that’s the time I have, so that’s when it gets done. Oh, I write almost all Saturday day too.

Biggest challenges include my schedule and balancing day job with writing until it (hopefully) becomes my real job. That, and I have a family. I have to weave and squeeze in writing and gigs where and when I can and that - between soccer and family events - it gets pretty tricky sometimes.

Do you have any processes or rituals when you write?  If you’re asking me about the color of my editing pen, I’m sure you do.

I’m neurotic. Not really, but kinda sorta. I outline on fluorescent notecards (I sometimes tape them to walls/mirrors to check plot and subplot development flows) and I refuse to use any other color combo. I’ve tried the regular colored note cards! It’s just not the same!

I have certain pens I write with. Yes, I handwrite sometimes! This is mainly because I like a pen that flows but also because I have this old wrist injury that flares up if I handwrite too much.

I brainstorm with musical playlists created specifically for certain projects. I text myself random sparks/ideas I have immediately so I don’t lose them (My texts to myself are one of the biggest text records I have!) And I usually nosh on green grapes and/or drink coffee.

When I am revising/editing I do an in-computer revision on plot/character/setting incongruities, then I do an out loud editing on dialogue, then I do a paper edit on fleshing out and trimming up, and then I send it to my editor. I won’t skip a step. You can’t make me!

Oh, and I always write in scenes/clips. Sometimes in order - sometimes all over the place. Weaving them together can be the really fun part!

Who is your favorite character from Defiance: Dragonics and Runics Part I?  Why?

Argh! I hate this question! Er... Lanthar. No! Nylan... Okay, Callon. Crap. Let me think....Vee. I choose Vee. Why? Because there is so, so much more to her than what is on the surface and there are little plants here and there but you can just tell - she’s something special. She’s interesting and you want to know where she’s been and why. That, and because if I were to cast the movie version, I’d pick Julia Roberts for her. So talented. I just love Julia Roberts.

It’s clear that you have created a very detailed fantasy world for your story.  How do you keep all of the geography and cultures straight?  Do you outline?  Map?

All of the above. I have a Production Bible that has everything printed or handwritten about the world of Dragonics & Runics. I have pages on how the Dragons breed, grow, and co-exist - what their Queen Dragons were, who major Runics were in Soleran past, etc. etc. I also have a country outline in there that is similar to the CIA Fact List for foreign countries including climate, culture, and industry. In an epic series, these things matter so I have to keep them straight.

I also doodled a map. There are different versions as more and more of the world is discovered in the series, so keep an eye out for that. And yes, the maps have detailed notes on mountains, rivers, swamps, deserts, and cities.

What has been the most rewarding thing about writing?  Most frustrating?

Having people really get involved in the stories I have written. I love that they can feel and see everything. It’s so gratifying and inside I’m going “WOO! THEY GOT IT! I CAN WRITE!” while outside I’m thanking them for their kind words. My favorite was when a reader asked me how I saw the dragons and I replied, “A mix of traditional Dragons (wings instead of arms) with Wyverns (wings & arms but smaller), because I’d be way more fun to eat a goat that way.” He laughed and said, “This -- is why I love your writing.”

The most frustrating is dealing with being an indie author/publisher and doing all the ground work and getting told that I don’t count as much because I’m an Indie. That, or when I am working on something as a team and you have to navigate everyone agreeing and seeing the same vision without sacrificing quality or story.

What color is YOUR editing pen?

Purple. Bright, freaking purple. I do digress to orange or pink - if my munchkin begs me to - but I prefer my lovely purple ink.
 

 
A. Wrighton can be found at the following locations:

Defiance: Dragonics & Runics Part I (print): http://bit.ly/dr1amazon

Defiance: Dragonics & Runics Part I (ebook): http://bit.ly/dr1ebook  (Coming to Smashwords & others June 2013!)

My website: www.awrighton.com

Dragonics & Runics Series website: www.defythecouncil.com

Defiance: D&R Part I trailer: http://bit.ly/dandrvideo

Twitter: @a_wrighton

 
  








Friday, April 5, 2013

The Frustrated Idealist


I was recently asked in an interview if I was trying to simply entertain or deliver a message.  I had to think about that.  I’ve always liked stories that entertain while making me think and I’ve tried to follow that template when writing Procythian Reign.  All the King’s Men and Animal Farm are two of my favorite works, so it’s likely no surprise that my writing takes a darker view of human nature.

People fascinate me.  Mankind could accomplish anything he set his mind to doing, yet we have a polluted planet and spend trillions on weapons to kill each other while most of our citizens struggle to provide basic health care for themselves and their family.  I’m not bashing the military.  My last post should tell you what I think of our soldiers.

But are we going to learn from these tragedies?  Do we really want to?  Will the day arrive when we leave our planet an uninhabitable nuclear wasteland after a few hours of white-hot bloodletting?  How much longer will we kill each other over whom we choose to worship or love?  Will petty jealousies continue to rip us apart forever, or will the day arrive when we recognize that we have so many more similarities than differences?

I think about these things and try to understand.  It can make you crazy, but (for me) that might not be such a long trip.  I suppose it’s fair to say that we all have a darker side that we don’t want to acknowledge.  I suspect that’s why people slow down and watch at traffic accidents and why violence is so prevalent in our media. 

Maybe washing the baser instincts out of a race comprised of billions is just too daunting.  Perhaps our bad habits are perpetuated by a sort of natural selection.  How can we ever really stop our “evil” ways when they are the very instincts that protect us from the bullies of the world?  It’s pretty hard to leave the door open when we know there are wolves in the yard. 

It looks like the lowest common denominator will always keep us from reaching a level of enlightenment that we see in Star Trek or other Utopian fantasies.  It will for my lifetime.  I’m pretty sure of that.

I think that’s some of the spirit I’m trying to catch in Procythian Reign.  I try to make the people and their politics real.  As a writer, I try not to take sides.  I respect the honor and genius of men like Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jackson and Erwin Rommel.  Do I mourn for their causes?  No.

It is interesting, however, to realize that good men stand opposite each other in all of humanity’s conflicts, violent or not.  Not all are good men, but they’re there (good and bad) on all sides.  I didn’t write Procythian Reign to preach a vision or an idea, but it isn’t going to hurt my feelings if it makes you think a little, either.  My favorite writers have always made me think.  I would be honored to do the same for others. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It’s All History


Good stories have the same ingredient: characters we care about on a journey fraught with challenges and adversity.  Really good stories create real doubt about whether or not the character will succeed or even survive.  We really don’t know until that last page is turned how it all ends.  Who lives?  Who dies?  Will I get more of this story in a sequel?  Will there be “loose ends”?

The first stories I fell in love with took place in a setting very different from those of Laura and Eric.  Most of them took place in the days before the automobile.  Characters named Jackson and Lee, Washington and Cornwallis, Wellington and Bonaparte filled the pages of the books I read.  Whole civilizations lived and died by the success and failure of these men and their soldiers.

It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when the safe money wasn’t on a rag-tag rebel army standing up to the most powerful empire the world had ever known.  The victory of Wellington and Blucher outside a little Belgian backwater in 1815 was not a foregone conclusion.  And, how could anyone know in 1940 that Hitler’s and Hirohito’s armies would be defeated by August of ’45? 

People watched and waited for word from places like Gettysburg, Bastogne and Saratoga.  They wanted to know if Richmond or Paris would be spared military occupation or razed in street-by-street fighting like Stalingrad or Berlin.  Would The Reign of Terror ever end? Who would be left?

See, to us, they’re amazing stories that have been handed down from generation to generation, stories that we take for granted as being the way things have always been.  But to the people who lived them, it was their life.  Would their loved ones come home?  Would the bombers return?  Would the enemy army reach their city?

It was, as war always is, a very terrible drama.  A drama that these people lived.  They paid a heavy price for paving the way for us.  Someday, I encourage you to put down that exciting novel you’re reading and pick up a book of our history.  Read the full and tragic story of a man named Benedict Arnold, or, how the relationship between Ben Franklin and his son, William changed forever during The American Revolution.

And, remember, regardless of what we think of the politics putting them there, we have men and women spending months and years away from their families, facing great danger and adversity for us.  I am always grateful to those brave souls writing our history in their blood.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Business End of Writing Can be Fun, Too!


A week ago, I was prepared to write a post about the frustrations of the business side of writing.  I was going to talk about how much work it is and how frustrating it can be, about how much there is to learn and how I’m always playing catch up as a rookie.  But, the fact of the matter is, I’m learning and fixing mistakes I’ve made as fast as I can.

When I first started this journey into authorship, I didn’t want to do these things.  I wanted to write good stories and sell them.  I’m a simple man of simple tastes.  I enjoy life as a relatively anonymous firefighter. I chose a pseudo pen name: T. Allen Diaz as a lame attempt to shield my identity (The T. stands for Thad). 

So, I entered the fray of the independent writer.  I made a website centered on my book, not me.  I created a Twitter account and an author Facebook page that’s still collecting dust.  I created an author page on Amazon, and an author page on Goodreads (currently experiencing technical difficulties).  I got an account with the World Literary CafĂ© and created this blog.  Eventually, I placed some pics of myself on these sites (the bow tie pic is from my daddy/daughter dance with my girls and the one on the railroad was taken by my son on the tracks I can literally see, right now, outside my window).

But it was all grudgingly.  I didn’t know how people would find me interesting.  True, I write books, but I’m no superstar.  My name’s not some household word, and that was never my goal.  I’ve often said: “Fortune is great!  You can keep the fame.” And, with this “business model” I was failing. 

But, over the couple of days, something has happened: I’ve turned a corner.  It’s true, I have a long way to go and I’m not seeing best seller tomorrow, but I think I might have the beginnings of a fan base.  People have started chatting with me about my work.  I’ve received messages from Tweeps who are “checking you out on Amazon” and “can’t wait to read Procythian Reign!” I even got the most treasured: “Just grabbed Procythian Reign on Amazon!  Looks exciting!”

I admit, to date my commercial success wouldn’t qualify as modest, but there are signs of life.  More importantly, I’m having fun talking to a firefighter from Springfield, Illinois, a nurse from Australia, a battlestar commander from across the pond, a D. C. reformist, and self-professed geeks and nerds from all corners of not the country, but the world!

I’ve been humbled by the support and camaraderie of writers who’ve offered guidance and encouragement.  People who have taken the time to write to me and say: “Hey, it takes time.” Or “How’s it going down there in Flawda?” I’ve enjoyed these people and this venture.  These folks have helped me realize that going out and mingling with writers and readers alike doesn’t have to be about ego or narcissism. 

It’s about people and enjoying good conversation and company.  I can genuinely enjoy prospective readers and fellow authors without trying to push some book on them.  Sure I want to make money, but I don’t want to use people just to make a sale.   Maybe that’s been by big aversion to “fame” all along.

I still have a lot of progress to make  I’m still a rookie.  I’m still fixing mistakes I’ve made and trying to play catch up.  I’m still not using all of my tools to their fullest potential, but I’m doing ok for a working-class-stiff-holding-down-two-jobs-and-planning-a-wedding.  

I’m on the right path.  More and more people are visiting this blog.  I’m getting more traffic on my Amazon site.  And, I’m seeing a trickle of sales grow.  Someday, I hope I will look at these days and smile at them as the hard days before it all came together.    

 

 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Joy of Writing

I had a blog half written.  And, then, like often happens when I write fiction, I realized I was writing in the wrong direction.  Maybe someday we'll talk about the business side of writing that is taking all of my time in one frustrating bite after another.  But not today.
Today, we're going to talk about writing and all of its joys....well, some of its joys. 
When I was a child, I spent many a day alone in my backyard, dreaming up some fantasy or adventure.  Sometimes it took place in the stars.  Sometimes it was a rewrite of history.  Sometimes I was even a character, but not usually.
Years later, those daydreams and fantasies stayed with me.  And I began to see elements of a great story in other people or the news or from characters in history.  I am fascinated by the conflicts into which people are drawn, especially people of principal.  I'm captivated by the choices those people are forced to make and the price they pay for making those choices. 
What if you had to chose between the life of your spouse and the life of your child?  How would making such a choice affect you?  I know, terrible question.  But, the joy of writing, and the thing I think I enjoy most, is the fact that I get to set the rules and put these people in situations where we can ask: "what would I do there?" or "how would that affect me?"
The story gives us a chance to explore many things, often things we wouldn't want to face in real life. It gives us a chance to think about what makes us tick and why we do what we do.   
It is a long held truth that character is what makes a story compelling.  I believe that.  And, I hope that you love these characters as much as I do,.  They are the reason you keep turning the page and coming back for more. I try to make my characters flawed and human.  I want them to be relatable.
I want you to empathize.