I've come to find myself at quite a frustrating, albeit important crossroads. It's a place I knew would probably reveal itself sooner rather than later, but despite its inevitable arrival, I still retain a false sense of hope that maybe I just might be able to escape its suffocating grasp.
Toiling in anonymity. For a writer, it's the worst thing that can happen.
I've made certain choices in my relatively young writing career that have no doubt aided in this sad state I find myself in. The question now is: can I lie in the bed that I've made and be content? I'm happy to say that, yes, I can! Good ol` optimism, eh? Simultaneously mankind's greatest strength and weakness.
I'm optimistic for another reason, because I know that my relative obscurity and "lack of success" can be attributed to me and me alone. At least 90%. Why? Because it's all about what I haven't done. I remain optimistic, because I know that this part of my writing career, like the actual writing itself, is entirely under my control.
All I do now is write, and even then I am 100% certain that I could write more than I do. So, wake up and write more, you lazy dummy! This is something under my powers of control; whether I want to do it is up to me.
I also don't do nearly enough marketing or social networking for it to even matter. So why should I bitch and complain that nobody knows who I am or what I write? That's not their fault, it's mine. Again, something I can control. All I can do is put out the best stories I can and market them the best that I can. If I've done all that I can possibly do and have exhausted every last bit of my time and talents and still no one buys my books, then I might have a reason to feel a little self-pity. But if all I do is write and publish and nothing else and still whine about not getting noticed, then I have absolutely no reason to complain.
It's all on me—no one else. Can I do my part to help bolster my reputation rather than just sitting and waiting for things to fall into my lap? We shall see if I actually smarten up, or simply become another casualty of the self-publishing environment.
I'm mad, because every so often (every couple of days it seems) I get suckered into thinking that my life is so terrible, and why does this always happen to me, and why can't I just do what I want when I want, yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah, boo-hoo-hoo.
Today was another great example of the tug-of-war that is my life being a stay-home dad and aspiring writer. It's been a constant battle, one which leaves many casualties along the way. Either I spend too much time parenting (never a bad thing) and watch the precious writing hours steadily dwindle away as the day progresses, or else I'm too involved in my writing, and my children suffer (definitely not a good thing) while valuable quality time with my kids vanishes, never to be made back.
Julie Forward DeMay (pictured below) dreamed of being a published author, and in 2011 her first book was released — two years after Julie (a daughter, sister, wife, and mother) lost her battle with cancer.
So who the Hell am I to even consider my life to be a chore and all my parental duties a burden when I am perfectly healthy, have perfectly healthy children and a perfectly healthy wife? That's why I get so mad - I'm selfish and forget how good I've got it.
Wake the Hell up, Me!
I don't know Julie. Never met her, and only have her pictures and stories to tell me who she was, but she's gone, and that's really sad. Another beautiful life cut down by an opponent that only seems to be getting stronger and stronger as time goes by (don't even get me started, medical community. Anytime you're ready to hand us a cure would be greatly appreciated!) I mourn with your family and friends, Julie, though I don't know what it's like to lose someone so tragically.
Frankly, cancer, you really piss me off!
Why should I be glad? Well, it's the paradox, the classic juxtaposition that is cancer. It so tragically takes from us, yet, by its dastardly deeds, inspiration and hope spring forth from the ashes like a majestic Phoenix. We would've never known Julie's story and how her words could help others along with their struggles.
Thank you, Julie, for your bravery, your selflessness, and your inspiration. I wish I had known you so I could've given you a hug. And to everyone out there whining and crying about how hard-done-by they are, a few quick questions: Do you wake up in the morning pain-free? Do you have an adequate roof over your head? Do you have enough food to sustain yourself and your family comfortably? Do you have a job that allows for an adequate lifestyle for you and your family to thrive? Are you going to die in the next 3-6 months? Do you have friends and family that love you and whom you love?
Need I go on?
Julie Forward DeMay
A wise man once told me, "There is no such thing as a lazy successful person."
My e-books aren't selling all that well as of late.
20 schoolchildren are dead in Newtown, Connecticut.
Will I ever be able to make a living as a writer?
20 precious lives were extinguished on Friday, December 14, 2012. Hardly even lived, never to be fully realized.
Time to put things into perspective. Again.
I am an author, but infinitely more important than this, I am a father of four. As a stay-home dad, I had the extreme misfortune of being exposed to the hideousness of that day on an almost unhealthy level, though nowhere near the extent of those who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary.
I sat at my keyboard, hands trembling. I was sick to my stomach. The live, streaming updates that bombarded me were unconscionable, appalling, despicable, and heart-wrenching. I didn't bother getting dressed, finishing chores, or even attempting to continue typing my most recent novel for the rest of the day. Things just didn't seem worth a damn. It saddens me to say that I feel no different today.
Will I ever?
All I could muster yesterday, when I picked up my children from school, was to smile halfheartedly at each one of them, tell them I loved them, and hug them just a little bit tighter than usual. They aren't just my futures, they are - all of our children are - the future leaders and cornerstones upon which our evolving society will be built. And to lose even one of them so needlessly, so senselessly, is a severe blow to the global society.
No life is worth losing in such a tragic manner, old or young, and the teachers and other members of the faculty that lost their lives protecting the young, I grieve for you as well. And though no life is any less valuable than another, the fact that so many young lives were lost makes it that much more difficult for us to wrap our collective heads around the tragedy. Maybe that's why I can't stop thinking about those little, defenseless children.
The human species as a whole gets knocked down several notches whenever we kill the young.
Even though the events that transpired in Newtown are thousands of miles away from where I am up in snowy Alberta, Canada, I was still deeply wounded by the sickening news. And so we all should be wounded by this tragedy, whether a parent or not. We are, each and every one of us, members of the human family, and as such are all connected to one another. This catastrophe has sent a shudder not just through the town of Newtown, but also through the entire human community.
What are we going to do about it? We can't just regurgitate the old "go back to living our normal lives" sentiment again. Is there nothing that can be done? Or are these senseless, heinous occurrences an inevitable facet of living amongst other humans? Will it ever stop? Do we really, truly want it to stop?
I cannot fathom how such madness, such vile atrocities can still occur in our world, but maybe I shouldn't be surprised anymore. Now, whenever I need to conjure up some kind of ungodly evil to pit against one of my protagonists, I need only look out the window.
Me and da Vinci, yo!
The other day, my wife called me a "modern day renaissance man." I'm pretty sure it wasn't because of my penchant for aeronautics and painting and sculpting. It was because I had finished writing my first picture book. Doesn't sound very earth shattering - I know.
When I discovered my hidden passion for writing stories, the one promise I made to myself was that I would never sellout. I wouldn't allow myself to chase the almighty buck, because once you start down that narrow road, ultimately what was once fueled by passion and talent gives way to laziness and routine.
I go where the story takes me. I'm a follower, a tag-along on the journey of words, and I certainly do not discriminate against any reader demographic. Not because I'm special or some sort of writing prodigy, but because I don't want to get in the old habit and routine of writing one way for one audience.
Renaissance men are categorized as polymaths: "a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas." Well, I'm taking it one step further - I'm a polyauthor, and I have the explosion of the self-publishing industry to thank for that. Where most, if not all, traditionally published authors are pigeonholed into writing a certain type of novel over and over again, I've been given the freedom and opportunity to explore many different genres of writing for a much broader audience to enjoy.
Talk about fulfilling. So far I've writing some tween fiction, adult fiction, some non-fiction, and most recently two picture books. I believe spreading yourself and your talents out as far as you can is the only logical thing to do. Why stifle yourself? Why settle? Call me crazy, but putting more things on your plate, though sometimes tiresome and difficult, can only make you better, right?
I challenge you to find your inner polymath. There's a little in all of us. Are you willing to dig yours up?
Okay. Something has really been chapping my hide lately. Really been a burr under my saddle. Really, really just...pissing me off, for lack of a better term. So I've decided to make a hierarchical list of some of the more popular fiction novel sub-genres. Maybe not for the general reading public and more for myself, but still something that needs to be sorted and dealt with. The categories comprised are not necessarily put in order of profitability or popularity as the top four could most likely be interchanged with one another.
This list will be a sort of literary food chain, starting with what I believe to be the purest, most credible kind of fiction writing, and finally spiraling down to the lowest, cheapest form of fiction. I have given book or author examples for some categories, but the latter categories are pretty much self-explanatory as you will see. As a disclaimer, I just want to make it clear that although these are my opinions concerning what makes good fiction and poor fiction, they are still 100% accurate and correct and cannot be disputed.
JUVENILE FICTION (a la Harry Potter, etc)
MYSTERY/ THRILLER (Koontz, Grisham, etc)
CONTEMPORARY FICTION (Patterson, King, etc)
ROMANCE (Steel, etc)
ANIMAL/ PET FICTION
SINGLE CELL ORGANISM FICTION
And there you have it. It looks like another victory for both JUVENILE FICTION and EROTICA. It always perplexes me; how did EROTICA ever get its name? Do people actually find smut in book form erotic? Really? It's more like porn on paper. There is a reason why the porn industry is a multibillion-dollar business, and there is a reason why people buy EROTICA: sex sells. Always has, always will. Not because anything has been well written or well produced.
Congrats, all you EROTICA "writers" floating around out there; you must be extremely proud of yourselves. Selling out for the easy buck. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised—there are gravy-trainers in every industry. I see that now.
Keep writing your "stories" and I suppose people will continue to purchase them. Just know that it ain't your writing style or painstakingly crafted character development and storyline that are drawing them to your novel. With that knowledge, how could you possibly continue to churn out such played, unimaginative, and uninspired drivel?
Oh, right. Money talks. To bad integrity doesn't talk. Integrity really should make a concerted effort to talk much more regularly in society. But that's for another blog.
People love a good hero. We look up to them. We idolize them. We’re proud of them. We want to be them, yet we cower at the first sign that may require us to act like them. What sets them apart from everyday, ordinary men and women? I think, for the most part, it’s the size of the organ residing in the upper center-left quadrant of their chests.
Dictionary.com defines a hero as a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities. Yep, sure sounds like someone I’d like to be. Sadly, although I may possess a modest amount of ability and, perhaps, even a modicum of noble qualities, I’m not ashamed to say that I may lack the necessary amount of courage required to be branded a hero.
When I say the word hero, what’s the first thing that pops into your head? The answer to this question is relative depending on the age of the person being asked, but I’d wager most people ultimately think of a comic superhero of some sort –- Superman, perhaps. But is this type of hero really what attracts or inspires others? One might say that Superman is the embodiment of the quintessential hero: strength, undeniable character, unwavering courage and heart, incorruptibility.
But he also casts the shadow of being the goody-two-shoes of all the heroes. He never lies, he never cheats –- Mr. Perfect. I don’t know if people really care for this kind of a hero, frankly. He’s so… up there -– untouchable. I believe, more often than not, people would rather follow a flawed hero over a Mr. Pristine type.
In keeping with the comic book analogy, I think that’s what makes Batman so appealing. Yes, he stands up for the weak and for what is right, but, man, does he have his demons. These are the guys we really root for –- the guys who, at the end of the day, have to go home to all their psychological anguish and tempered pasts that were ultimately responsible for turning them into heroes in the first place. Yet even in the face of all their torment and mental maladies, the courage and fortitude to push on and never quit, by default, makes them true heroes.
The same might also be said about the Harry Potter character, too. I think a lot of his popularity, aside from the incredibly amazing story and living, breathing world that Rowling created, had to do with the tragic past and "fish out of water" scenario that we found Harry thrust into at such a young age. We can't help but root for the underdog in those situations -- we're suckers for it, especially a hero that is humble and self-deprecating.
The word flaw naturally gives out a negative connotation, sometimes even an undertone of weakness. “Sure, he’s great, but what about [insert flaw here]!” But flawed heroes aren’t solely relegated to comic strips and movie screens. Some of the most heroic of heroes are and were living, breathing people like you and me. And of course when I say like you and me, I’m merely citing that they are of the same species as the rest of us. In no way am I trying to lump these fine, irreproachable humans in with the rest of us on a behavioral level. It would be an insult to them.
It’s very easy for me to draw inspiration from one of my all-time favorite heroes whenever I’m writing, or developing a hero for one of my stories. The name of Terry Fox may carry some notoriety around the world, but here in Canada Terry Fox has been immortalized alongside some of the all-time greatest heroes to ever walk this green earth.
Talk about being "flawed": how about suffering from cancer and having your leg amputated at the hip, all before your 20th birthday. Trust me when I say that that was the only flaw the guy ever had. Two years after the loss of his leg, Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope, where he essentially ran a marathon (26 miles) every day to raise money for cancer research. But he eventually had to stop –- succumbing to the cancer –- after 143 days of running and having covered 3,339 miles… ON ONE LEG!
The more I see the stats, the more I simply marvel at the guy. I’m able-bodied and perfectly healthy (ahem), yet you’ll never see me even contemplate entering a marathon out of sheer fear, or, dare I say, laziness. I don’t think Terry even knew what the word lazy meant. I’m almost certain that if I cut out my heart and set it down beside his, it would look like a marble beside a medicine-ball.
I’d like to amend my earlier example of the embodiment of a hero, if I may. Strength; undeniable character; unwavering courage and heart; incorruptibility –- sounds like Terry Fox to me. And the last time I checked, he never wore a red cape. Just like with everyday life, and most certainly when comparing comic book heroes to living, breathing heroes, it's always a delight to see that truth is quite often so much more remarkable than fiction.
It's a new year again, folks. Time to write some new books. Can't wait for you to read them. I can't wait to write them!
(Remember, don't read it, sing it to the tune!)
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
an eReader with built-in Wi-Fi.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
2 blog reviews.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
3 guest posts.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
4 Facebook Likes.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
5 top ten Google search resuuuuuuuults.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
6 eBook formats.
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
7 new comments.
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
9 genre choices.
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
10 ads that work.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
11 websites linked to.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
12-thousand eBook sales.
I love my children – I have four of them. I’ve been a stay-home dad for the last 6 years. At one point or another I’ve stayed home with at least one of them and at the most, three at once. Things have calmed down somewhat, now that my three boys are all in school, but with the arrival of my sweet little princess last October, I’ve got another four years to go until it’s her turn to start school (sniff).
But as each of my children grew and eventually started school, it seemed that another darling would enter my home. You see, a funny thing happened when my wife and I decided that I should stay home with our kids: my brain woke from a twenty year coma. No, no, I’m 100% healthy. It’s just that I haven’t been – how should I phrase this – the most ambitious amongst us humans during my adult life.
But in the latter part of 2007, one year into my newly acquired role as Mr. Mom and with a sudden influx of personal reflective time, I discovered a hidden passion that had previously laid dormant for most of my life – the writer within. And although a piece of me left whenever one of the kids left to start school for the first time, I slowly became acquainted with my new children – my darlings that came to life in my head each time I turned on my laptop and began typing.
When you’re a parent, you discover things about yourself that you may not have known before, or may not have needed to use until those precious little sweethearts started to fill your home. But when you become a stay-home parent, and the realization that your children’s lives depend entirely on you every minute of the day, it’s almost like a slap in the face – a rude awakening. And if you aren’t committed 100%, then your children suffer.
I’ve noticed this on a much smaller scale with the characters I’ve developed within my books. If I, as an author, am not on my game mentally and fully committed, then my characters suffer and ultimately the entire story suffers. I guess you could say that being a stay-home parent has helped me refine my skills as an author when it comes to nurturing my characters through the writing process, and giving them what they require to flourish.
But the sad inevitability that happened when my children eventually left for school also happened when I had to “let go” of my first novel and release my surrogate darlings into the cruel, unforgiving world. Stay-home dad or writer, I guess I’m doomed no matter what.
So, although my fathering skills in everyday life have now been tweaked to accommodate the needs of a toddler who now wears pink (yikes!), it’s been a true pleasure to breathe life and hope and aspirations and accomplishments into each and every character I’ve written about. I’ve grown and seen my darlings-in-prose grow along with me during my authoring journey, and sometimes I can’t help but feel protective of them.
My only wish is this: just as parenthood has taught me how to develop and become a better writer, I can only hope that by being a writer, perhaps I’ll learn to more easily let go and release my own kids into that same cold, cruel world when those inevitable times come knocking upon our door. Until then (sniff, sniff), I’m going to keep writing my books, keep raising my kids, and keep fathering more darlings into the wonderful world of fiction.