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!   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.   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 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!