My friend Evan “FromTheWastes”, the Last Librarian, is one of those guys who absolutely loves the genre of Post Apocalypse, Sci-Fi, Dystopia, SHTF, and anything tangentially related. My friendship with him is probably the only reason I keep my twitter account active; a chance to meet other people that I click with as well as him.
We got together recently to BS about my books and other things. The result of that interview is here.
Not saying what it is yet so as to avoid pressuring the guy working on it. Rest assured I’ll share links when when available. Fun times!
Just a quick reminder that famed audio book narrator R. C. Bray and yours truly will be appearing on the Speculative Fiction Cantina podcast on August 25th at 3 PM, West Coast time, with author and host S. Evan Townsend to discuss my novel Commune Book One. Bray will also perform a live reading from the novel.
I’m a civilian. The only knowledge I have about military life is what I’ve learned from my dad, who was a Soldier, and my other friends who have served, in addition to what I’ve researched for myself.
This presents a hell of a challenge, then, when a major character in my second book (currently in progress right now) is a 12 year veteran of the Marine Corps. The reader spends a lot of time with this guy, so I’ve had to create not just a character, but a character with a realistic military career in the United States Marine Corps.
That shit is hard.
Lucky for me, I have some good Marine friends, both veterans as well as active service members, who can protect me from doing idiotic things. One of them is listed in the acknowledgements of Commune Book One (Hi, Scott); another of them (currently stationed out in Okinawa right now) is looking like he’ll be a big part of me keeping Book Two on point.
I’ve spoken to a few vets on the matter and, so far, they all seem to appreciate the fact that the main thing I’m trying to do is show the most realistic portrayal I can of the military mindset and lifestyle, warts and all. I’m getting the impression that these guys are excited about having their stories told, even if it’s only in a work of apocalypse fiction.
I’m trying to do a lot of things in this series of books, one of which is to honor the service and actions of the men and women of the United States Military in the truest way that I can, showing them as the real, complex people that they are. Call it a fanboy love letter, if you like.
Whether I’m qualified or not, I’m taking on the role of a collector and keeper of stories, here. If you have served or are currently serving and you have stories you want to share from your experiences (pretty or ugly), whether you were in country, on base, or in basic, please feel encouraged to send them my way. If they work out for the story I’m trying to tell, an adapted version may end up in my books (with your permission). Even if they don’t, I’ll be posting them up here at this site (again with your permission, of course – you or I can change names to protect the not-so-innocent).
I don’t know how much range this post is going to have or if there will be a lot of takers but I’d sure as hell like to get as many eyes on as I can. If you’re reading this right now and you know anyone who might be interested, please share this along and direct them to my contact info on this site so they can drop me a line. No story is too small; I’m not necessarily looking for a bunch of top tier operator stories, though if you went out and did that, it’s cool and you’re welcome here too. But the background folks, whether you ran logistics in an office of slung food in the mess, I want you here too. The lowliest grunt who never did anything more than fill a gas tank is still more of a badass than me; you guys are all my heroes, men and women alike. You all have a place here.
I’m looking for human stories. Whether it has to do with your first or last firefight; or that night you got bored, lit your pubes on fire, and ended up in the infirmary; or that wild time in Thailand that you can only vaguely remember. I’m interested in all of it. I’m damned sure not the only one.
I was fourteen years old the first time I started writing a novel. The first time I finished a novel was a couple of months ago. I’m thirty-eight.
As you might guess, I have some experience with running out of steam.
Now, the first thing to understand is that I didn’t just live through twenty-four years of continuous attempts and failures to complete a novel. That was twenty-four years of attempting to write a novel when I became inspired to tell a story (I’m bolding “became inspired” for reasons I’ll explain shortly). My best guess lands at five or six distinct stories that I tried (and failed) to complete over that time line. A lot of these occurred early on; very few of them in later years.
Having never completed a novel, I began to accept the idea that some people are writers and I simply wasn’t one of them. I was a good communicator. I was certainly skilled at writing my thoughts down. And yet, whatever bit of internal wiring is required to tell a cohesive, 70K+ word story was apparently a gift with which I had not been born. Without any great deal of regret (I didn’t really know what I was missing out on), I stopped trying.
Let’s fast forward a bit to now, where I’ve published my first novel, it seems to be getting pretty well received, I’ve signed an audio book deal, and I’m well on my way to completing the second book in the series and starting up the third soon after. What the hell changed?
It’s actually pretty simple but the answer was so far removed from storytelling that I didn’t even realize it until fairly recently. The pursuit of two activities literally gave me all of the tools I needed to complete a novel:
Power lifting and software development.
These are two vastly different disciplines that have a couple important parallels: namely, they take a long time to do well and you will definitely not enjoy every part of the process.
The problem I had with writing was that I was pursuing it as a leisure activity, to be done only when I was “in the mood” or “feeling inspired”.
Developing software is a part of my day to day job and, if you’re going to produce anything remotely useful outside of a miniature test app or school project, it takes a lot of time. It takes time to first build an idea into a working platform and then it takes a significant investment of time to support that software and keep it from going stale (software of any moderate complexity absolutely will degrade and break down over time). I certainly enjoy developing software, but I don’t enjoy all of it. I like tackling difficult or unique tasks like developing TCP socket based command-response protocols, writing flight simulation software, or automating complex systems. Mundane crap like file IO, serialization, and GUI design are the pits; to be classified as the painful, repetitive garbage that I have to slog through each time I want to develop a new thing from the ground up. We design for code reuse and inheritance to mitigate this, but there is still always a point where you have to put a button somewhere or write the code to read a file. It’s mind numbing and I hate it.
But, if I want to enjoy the finished product, I have to plow through that ignominious work.
It was the same story with power lifting. If you’re of the inclination (not all of us are, which is cool), pulling a double body weight dead lift for the first time is an exciting, heady experience. Getting to a point where you can do that is a never ending, punishing, mind numbing slog unless you learn to love the grind. Power lifting is ALL ABOUT the grind. You make no progress; you see no improvement whatsoever unless you get your work in every day, you’re consistent, and you stick to the program. There are literally months of work invested for the sole purpose of accomplishing a lift that might take a total of ten seconds. The first time I hit a squat for 380 lbs, I spent roughly 8 or 9 seconds under load, followed by racking the bar, feeling fairly good about myself, and then walking out of the gym to the amazement of no one at all.
Nobody cared but me, which is as it should be (I don’t compete). All that aside, you need to understand that I trained for roughly three months to get to that point from my previous max (which at the time was 350, I think). Those three months were not fun. There were plenty of times where I would have been just as happy to stay in bed and sleep in rather than get up and go train.
In these examples, you learn that the days on which you aren’t feeling it are the most critical days of all. It’s not about what you can accomplish when you’re feeling inspired. Inspiration is bullshit. Inspiration is enough to get your ass moving…and that’s about it. By the time you’re looking at coming anywhere near the finish line, your fickle friend Inspiration is long, long gone (probably sleeping around on you, by the way).
When Inspiration has left, there is only The Grind. And what you do during The Grind determines whether you achieve your goal or fall short along with everyone else who quit at those most critical of moments.
Writing a novel is no different from pulling 500 lbs off the floor. That one act (i.e. publishing) is preceded by months of dedicated effort which must be spent whether you’re in the mood or not. The days where you simply aren’t feeling the drive are absolutely the most critical days. These are the times where you have to sit down and write no matter what. When you’d rather be sleeping, rather be playing video games, rather be watching some show on TV, rather be out with your friends; these are the moments where you’ll be able to tell if you have a snowball’s chance in hell of finishing what you set out to accomplish. If you can sit down during these times consistently and just write (even if that writing is shit), you have a good chance of finishing.
You’re not going to love every minute of writing your book. Get over the fantasy and learn to love The Grind.
Author Dean M. Cole is doing a really cool thing that I wasn’t even aware was a doable practice in this game; a virtual blog tour! He’s going to be feature alongside the narrators of his latest book, Solitude: R. C. Bray and Julia Whelan. This looks like it’s going to be a really cool feature for a guy who is already drumming up a lot of buzz in the independent and audio markets.
For those of you who run your own book blog, this is your chance to get in on the action (CLICK HERE). There are a number of dates open in which you can submit to host these folks over at your site. This is a good thing for everyone involved; it means traffic for them and it definitely means new traffic for you.
I happened to see an ad for this new-fangled Mighty Networks thing run across my Facebook feed (ironically, they were advertising on Facebook to tell me how ineffective Facebook is as a platform, but that’s neither here nor there) so I thought I’d go take a quick look at what they had. There were some pretty interesting things over there, I thought. It seemed like there were a lot more options for personalized, live connection with other users, many of which were a lot more elegant and better done than what I’ve seen on Facebook, Twitter, and even through what’s available here on WordPress. Because of this, I’ve gone and setup a presence there that I’m hoping will become a place that readers find useful. Among some of the other features provided, you can go there for:
- A live chat room (I may be scheduling live events with readers here in the future, if the demand is there)
- An event listing (if and when I do events, the only thing on there right now is a radio interview)
- A Q&A area where you can ask me any random ass thing
And various other stuff besides. I’ve also added links to the areas I think will be most useful in the top menu bar of the sight (see below).
Come connect with me, IF YOU DARE….
Or, maybe go eat a pack of Oreos. Those are good too. But totally come say hi after getting your Oreo on.