the walking drum

since I last posted, some incredible things have happened.

The Amazon “Breakthrough Novel Award” officially began February 16th at midnight, and at 12:01 I had my manuscript submitted.

It’s been polished and edited more times than I ever thought it would be, but I know each successive edit is only improving my work. After having some peers read through it, I’ve taken some of the their suggestions and I’m implementing a few changes.

linkedintop1I’m struggling a little about where to draw the line on PG versus R. It’s not exactly a children’s book, it’s written well above what most kids read these days, but I still entertain the idea that it’s going to be a book that young people want to read. Especially my own children, someday.

With that in mind, I’m considering the comments of readers who so far say they feel like it needs more “sex, drugs, and violence”—in the words of my best friend. Drugs is a moot point, I don’t really think that’s as tangible a component as, say, sex or violence is. And there’s considerable violence towards the end of the book. However, I’d feel more comfortable adding more action scenes than I would adding a sex scene. Which is confusing, actually, because it seems rather odd that as a culture, we’re more accepting of someone murdering someone else, than we are of them sharing love together. Why is that, exactly?

In any case, I grew up on a lot of classical mythology, and while sex was certainly featured, it was always portrayed in a sort of antiseptic kind of way. Nothing gratuitous, nothing implicit. I’ve read lots of books that handle it in many different ways. It’s never something that draws me to a book though, and personally, the less of it there is the better. I always feel like it’s a little unnecessary, sort of thrown in for cheap thrills. Basically, sex isn’t why I read. But if it has to be there—and don’t get me wrong, I understand it needs to be sometimes, and that’s it’s a big part of everyone’s life—then there are better ways of handling it than others.

One of the best scenes I can recall reading was one in “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, by Hemingway. The two main characters make love in the forest, and… you never really get a distinct description of what they’re doing. Hemingway describes the feelings, the emotions, the repetitive motion of diving headlong and losing yourself in something that’s bigger than you or your lover. That seemed like the best way to handle it to me, very poetic, very clean, and still very powerful.

But I digress.

I’m wrangling with the idea of adding more of a love interest, is the bottom line, but I’m still conscious of who I’m writing this for and what my children might think when they read it. But honestly, do I want them to be more tolerant of violence and murder, or of love?

So for now, I’m coming up with another action scene to tuck between these two chapters to sort of help the reader through a dialogue, character driven portion of the story. That’s all well and good. And I don’t think it needs to be too long. Once I finish, I can update my submission on Amazon, and no harm done. I’m still in the contest now, but I if there’s still a chance to improve my book? Why not take it.

writers_block-e1368467379710The other good news is that my book will soon be on sale. I’m still toying with the final edits, but I’ve already got a team reviewing it for submission through Amazon’s “Create Space” website, and within a week or two, you’ll be able to buy your very own copy of “The Sovereign”, in paperback or e-book. I’m so excited it’s stupid. On a side note, I’ve met two people who couldn’t figure out how to say “sovereign”, so I hope that’s not a sign of things to come, but hey, if you can’t figure out how to pronounce it, you’re probably not my audience anyways.

I’ve still got a lot of work to do as far as marketing myself and my  book, but I have a good feeling that when July rolls around and the Amazon contest is over, I won’t have to worry about selling my own book anymore.

So until then, I’m going to hammer away at book 2, and try to get that ready to go and up for sale before the end of the year. This first book took me almost seven years to finish, but I think now that the groundwork is laid, I can move on to the joy of simply writing, and it won’t take too long to get done.

Thanks for your support and following my journey. I’ve still got a long way to go, but it helps to know that I’m in good company.

It’s About Damn Time

154 days.

That’s how long it’s been since I last posted. Disgraceful, really, but when I fill you in, perhaps you’ll forgive my tardiness.

You see, last time I posted, I announced that I’d been hired at a television station! Exciting news, to be sure. But that Entailed a lot of extra work. Until that time, I’d never had a job that required working eight hours a day. That was unheard of! Working odd jobs here and there, in restaurants, gigs to pay the bills… but I’d have weeks where I only worked two or three days, with four or five days off! Those weren’t too frequent, but having at least three days a week off was normal.

"... maybe someday if I'm a good writer, I'll be portrayed in a romantic comedy next to Owen Wilson."

“… maybe someday if I’m a good writer, I’ll be portrayed in a romantic comedy next to Owen Wilson.”

I went from that, to working eight hours a day, and odd hours too. News stations work in two shifts: morning, and night. The morning shift runs from an ungodly 3:00 A.M., to between 10:00 and noon. Those are about the worst hours I can personally imagine. The actual working of them may not be too terrible, but going to bed at 5:00 or 6:00 in the afternoon. Unconscionable. Especially with a significant other.

The other shift runs to the much more reasonable 3:00 P.M. in the afternoon, to 11:30 at night when the station closes. I mean, it never really closes, there’s always someone at the helm, manning the conn so to speak. But the writers go home, and so do all the producers and regular staff.

I was fortunate enough to land on the afternoon crew, so my rotation is a comfortable evening shift that lets me sleep in to 10:00 or 11, or really whenever I want, even if I do feel like a bag of crap waking up that late.

So I got to be a news writer! Technically I was labeled a “P.A.”, or “Production Assistant”. That means I just helped put the shows together, and was basically on the bottom rung of everyone’s ladder. But it was a big step up from saying, “Yes sir, I’ll bring you more Hollandaise sauce,” and “no mam, we don’t actually accept expired coupons, would you like to speak to my manager?”

A noble soul can only bear so much of that.

Not to say I was better than anyone else, but it does wear on a body when you work with people who have no greater ambition than to do exactly what they’re doing right now, working tables, and talking grandly about the things they’re going to do someday, or the ships that sailed by when they weren’t looking, when I’m planning a glowing marquee with the title of my novel featured next to evening showtimes and ticket prices.

In any case, that was all well and good, but the problem was that I was still only part time. This left me scrounging for other opportunities to pay the bills. I ended up taking another restaurant job to get by, but I’d had a taste of freedom at that point, and working at another restaurant was more than I was willing to stomach. I quit, with no idea how I was going to make things work, other than the firm conviction that I was through working as a server.

"The Hills Like White Marmots"

“The Hills Like White Marmots”

Persistence and luck paid off, however, and at the end of December an opening appeared for an assignment editor. For those of you who don’t know, an assignment editor is someone who works the assignment desk in a news station. That means listening to police scanners, checking fire department dispatch posts on the website, and checking local bulletins for breaking news around the city. It’s not an easy job, and it’s not one I wanted, but full time is full time. I grabbed it with some resignation, feeling certain I’d never get off the desk once I took it.

However, not one day after I took the job, another vacancy appeared and I leapt at the opportunity. I was back in my boss’s office the next day, after sending him an e-mail the night before, and I think we both knew I wasn’t walking out of there without that job. That was about a month ago, and as you might have guessed, I got the job. I’m now senior writer at the news station, and I couldn’t honestly be happier. It’s a lot more hours, but it’s incredibly gratifying and fun. I get to go to work everyday knowing I’m writing the news, I’m on the inside, and that feels good.

Now, a position like this is just a stepping stone in this industry. No one stays a writer very long, and there are different avenues in front of me depending on which road I’d like to go down. Honestly, I’m really putting my money behind my book taking off, and now that I’ve got my job situation sorted, I want to rededicate myself to making that happen. The Amazon “Breakthrough Novel Award” is coming up on the 14th of February, and you better believe I’m submitting.

I’ve also recently begun recording my novel. We have a sound booth at the station, and so I go in and close the door and hit the mic and it’s actually quite fun. It takes a good amount of time to read each chapter, and I’ve only got two so far, but I think they sound pretty professional, if I do say so myself. If you’d like to listen on them, you can click right here and they’re both on my YouTube page.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. I’ll start posting on here more regularly again now that I’ve got my feet under me, and hopefully before long all this will take off, and I’ll be on my way to that golden marquee.

Measuring the Wind

Well, it finally happened.

Last week actually, but it’s taken some time to get used to the idea. I’m still getting  used to it. After months of running about and applying for positions around town with my hat in my hand, I finally landed a job as a writer at a TV station.

531663_373574266046540_126789_nIt’s not the kind of job you can retire on, but it’s a step in the right direction, and I’m so inexpressibly grateful to the powers that be for this opportunity.

When I graduated university in 2009, I had no idea what I wanted to do. None at all! What is a job? What does one do for a living? How does that even work? So I went to China. And then Canada. Cause what else do you do?

There was so much about making a life and finding a successful career that I didn’t understand back then. I still don’t, this was just dumb luck and good timing. What even is a successful career? What is success?

I think success is just doing what you want to do and getting paid for it. Ultimate success for me would be to become a published author, able to support myself solely on my book earnings. That would be success.

I haven’t gotten there just yet. But being a writer at a TV station is one step closer: I’m getting paid to write, professionally.

When I first moved to San Diego, I applied to over 250 jobs around the city. Everything you can think of, from marketing and advertising positions to banking positions to insurance agencies and everything in between. Out of that, probably two dozen replied, and of those I got maybe eight interviews, if that. No call backs though, and I was left feeling like there was nothing I could do.

I didn’t even want any of those jobs, I was just applying for them because I needed work and something to pay the bills, and because people told me that’s what I should be doing.

But if I couldn’t even get a job doing something I didn’t want to do, what chance did I have at doing something I was really interested in? I felt tossed in the wind, lost in the noise, unsure of what I was meant to be doing or how.

All I knew is that I wanted to write. So I did. It took me another year and a half, but I finished my book. I’m still trying to get it published, but I’m not nearly as worried about that now because I feel like I have a path, a direction. I know where I’m moving, and I know, more or less, how to get there. It’s all in persistence. Don’t ever, ever give up. Ray Bradbury was right: if you’re doing what you love, you’ll find a way to make that into a living. It’ll just happen, naturally.

But you have to want it, you have to try, you can’t expect it to just come to you.

I feel like I’m painting this out to be something incredibly grandiose and awe inspiring. It isn’t, I know, but it’s something I want to do, and it’s important to me, and it’s something that two years ago I hadn’t ever even considered as being a possibility. So the fact that I’m getting paid to do something I enjoy is a pretty big deal for me. I get to work with like-minded people, in a creative environment, putting words on a page. Honestly, does it get any better than that?

Saturday Morning

I’ve been having trouble sleeping all week, waking up early for interviews and for work. “Early” is a relative term, I stay up until 2 or 3 most nights, so anything before 10 AM is pretty early for me.

In any case, Saturday morning, no work, and of course I’m up at 8:30. Lying in bed does no good, just prolongs the inevitable. So what do I do? Play with my new phone, watching videos for two hours.

Someone took this picture: someone who decided to share their passion with the world.

Someone took this picture: someone who decided to share their passion with the world.

I stumbled onto this old favourite of mine, a post by “ZeFrank” of YouTube. He’s something of an internet celebrity, and after watching a bunch of his videos, it’s not hard to see why.

In this particular video, the one I linked right there, he talks about the creative career—whether you’re an artist, a painter or sculptor, stand up comedian, director, or a writer. It’s a touching video that gives me a lot of encouragement, and basically boils down to this: if there’s something you love, something you’re passionate about, something you see yourself doing and can’t imagine not doing, then do it!

Much like Ray Bradbury in my previous post, if you aren’t wildly pursuing that thing that you love, then what the hell are you doing? Your life is your conscious decision to do whatever it is you’re doing at this very moment. Assuming you’re not a slave, in which case it’d be weird for you to have access to a computer anyways, you’re responsible for you, and if you’re not doing what you love…. well, that’s on you.

Now it’s not always easy to figure that out. Sometimes it takes years, decades even, to nail down precisely what it is you love to do and feel called towards. That’s ok. The journey is half the battle.

But to not even begin searching? To simply wallow in an existence of uncertainty and half-attempts that amount to nothing, what sort of life is that? You are denying yourself the fruit of your being, the chords of your soul remain silent as you slowly whither in your own apathy. If you aren’t doing what you love, stop and ask yourself, “why not?” Really consider that question, and if you aren’t proud of the answer, if you don’t see yourself getting closer to what you love, then do something about it.

MIRA00028927Maybe you’re a photographer, you love taking pictures of people. Then do it! Post them online, make a website, show your work. Someone will be interested in what you’re doing. Maybe you like to sing, you have a beautiful voice. Start singing! Record yourself, upload videos to YouTube. How many artists have become famous because they took a chance and showed the world what they could do? Maybe you’re a writer, like me, and you just love to share your thoughts and see them written out loud in your own voice. Then start writing. Do it now, write something down, even if you don’t share it, just get it out of yourself and into the world and see what’s inside.

Pick up your harp, find the notes that make you sing, and play them with all your heart. Only you know the tune, so don’t be afraid to look for it. The greatest tragedy would be settling for someone else’s tune, for it will never be your own.

Steps

colourful_life_by_davinsky-d6dcre0I had a simple thought tonight, as I stepped out of the shower. I thought about where I wanted to be, with my job, with my career, with my book. And then I thought, “Well that’s all lovely, but what have you done today to get closer to that?” So I thought about everything I’d done today to get my nearer to my goals. And then I thought, “I can do more.”

At the end of each day, think about where you are, and then think about where you want to be, and then ask yourself, “What steps have I taken today to get there?” And if you haven’t taken any, that’s ok too. Just understand that getting where you want to be is entirely up to you.

That Time I Met Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury and Me, 2008

“I tell young writers, it doesn’t have to be the greatest. But it does have to be you.”

“You’ve gotta be inspired and mad and excited and love it more than anything else in the world! And if any girl doesn’t like what you’re doing, out of your life! And if any of your friends make fun of you, your male friends, to hell with them! Out! Out. It has to be this kind of… “By God, I’ve gotta do it, I’ve simply gotta do it! And if you’re not this excited, you can’t win.”

That’s Ray Bradbury, dispensing his invaluable advice. Reading about his story as a writer is very rewarding, particularly as it seems to apply in so many ways to my own life, and my own experiences as a writer. I’ve had friends and family tell me to give it up, dated girls who didn’t think much of what I was doing or couldn’t be bothered to stick around long enough to see if it panned out. But that’s never really mattered. It made sense to me, and I’ve always felt that anyone who couldn’t see it that way just needed more time. They’ll come around, once they see what I’m seeing.

Back in 2008 I was still in school, and drove from Phoenix over to San Diego for the annual Comic Con. I’d never been before, I had no idea what to expect. I arrived, and most shocking, besides the staggering lack of parking, was that I needed to buy a ticket in advance. I figured you could just get them at the door, when you showed up, like cinema tickets. That made sense to me at the time, but then, I didn’t really understand what Comic Con was.

Walking through the crowds of people and robots and aliens and characters from my favourite shows and movies and things I’d never really considered possible before, I managed to catch a peek of a crowd of people moving together, pushing the throng out of the way. I asked someone what was going on, and they said, “It’s Ray Bradbury.”

When I had finished picking my jaw off the floor, I jabbed and elbowed and sucker punched enough people to make my way to the front of the crowd and there he was, in a chair, smiling happily and waving, just like a normal person. Forget Shia LaBeouf or Hayden Panettiere, I knew who I wanted my picture with.

When it was my turn, I wanted to just pull up a chair and talk for hours. But I handed my camera off, and tried to think of something intelligent to say. I came up blank. What do you say to Ray Bradbury? What in your life possibly prepares you for that moment? Well, I did the best I could, and just asked him for advice. I asked him what he would tell a new writer, someone starting from the beginning. He said,

“Don’t ever quit, don’t ever give up. Do it with all your heart, and don’t listen to the naysayers. Do what you want to do, and as long as you’re doing that, nothing else matters.”

Well, it’s pretty hard to argue with that. I think I just smiled and nodded and thanked him, and then fell back into the crowd, still lost in the moment.

His words have stuck with me to this day, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling I had when I was standing there listening to him. Here was a man who had made it. He’d figured out what he wanted to do, and he’d done it, and he’d made his whole life out of doing it. What more could you ask besides that?

“A writer moves about observing, seeing as much as he can, trying to guess how man will play the game. Constantly measuring life the way it is, against the way he feels it ought to be. He’s a magnet, passing through a factual world, taking from it what he needs.”

I think I’ll make a cup of tea and do some writing.

Progress Schmogress

So last update was last Monday. Which, considering the nature of what I’m getting myself into, isn’t really the best thing ever. But it’s been a busy week, and lots of other things have gotten done, so… hey. Go bounce an egg.

In any case, I attended the meeting for social media management and it was very enlightening. Our speaker was an expert in the field and has been coaching authors in promoting their work, not just online, for over a decade.

Apparently, as I’ve suspected, consistency and persistence are key. I can’t really think of a place in life where those don’t apply, but at least online marketing isn’t an exception.

...that moment when you're sure she knows nothing about cars, and you realise you just don't even care.

…does this vacant stare make my butt look big?

Basically, the idea is to broadcast your message—that is youon as many mediums and in as many places as you possibly can. Maximum Exposure. Sounds like a new Michael Bay film, eh? God I hope he’s not reading this.

Well, as long as Megan Fox has no speaking roles, I really don’t mind.

In any case, the presenter at the meeting handed us a packet with a litany of projects to work on, including the creation and maintenance of a Twitter account. Well, that’s pretty basic, I wasn’t surprised there. But she went on.

To be a successful writer, and to get your book out there and exposed to as many people as possible, you also need an Instagram account. Really? Instagram? But my book has nothing to do with what you ate last night.

You also need a Facebook page separate from your personal timeline, a Pinterest page with relevant material, a YouTube page with something like a book trailer for your novel, a Google+ page for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation, for those who didn’t know), a LinkedIn page, active participation in book review sites and blogs and engaging people on forums, adding Google Analytics to your website (which I still haven’t learned how to do), making podcasts, adding your book to Google Books, and creating an audio version of your novel.

But really, that’s all.

So, I’m doing my best to wrap my head around what all that means, especially because you’re really only “required” to spend about an hour a day updating all these things. I’ve nailed down a few of them, but I’m working on the rest. I agree that maximum exposure is an excellent policy, but I still feel like I’m mostly shooting in the dark here. Hopefully this all becomes clearer as we go along, and before too much longer I can start to say that some of it makes sense.

You know, kind of.

A little bit.