Burnouts and Other Random Hooey #amwriting

Been quiet a couple of days.  Things have been hectic.

One of the things I’m gradually learning during this whole writing thing is that you have to spend as much (if not more) time running your mouth about the books you’re writing as you are just writing the damned books.

I’m an introvert.  I wrote my first book with the understanding that:

  1. I need to create something or I’m going to tear out what’s left of my hair.
  2. Writing a book is about the most solitary activity in which I could engage.

Joke’s on me!  I didn’t have the first clue what’s actually involved in marketing a book and getting people to pay attention to it when I wrote my first book.  I knew there was some sort of thing you’re supposed to do to tell people about it but that was really some nebulous, undetermined activity to be reserved for later after all of the publishing activity was completed.

Holy Jesus.  I feel like Jay Sherman…

buymybook

If you’re a true introvert, you know where I’m coming from.  You see, they have these people called extroverts, who get a deep psychological charge from interacting with other people.  They go to social events and gatherings, hang out and mingle with everyone all night long, and feel invigorated and energized the next day; ready to just go out and beat the shit out of the week.

Guys like me need a weekend of recovery after going out to dinner and a movie.  We literally feel like we need our batteries recharged.

For me, this is typically focused towards face-to-face social interaction.  I should and do have a higher tolerance for internet activity.  This, too, has a limit, it seems.

This is all a long, roundabout way to say that blogging a lot is freaking draining, man.  I’d rather be busy writing my next book; not writing about writing my next book.

Oh well.  Writing the second entry in the Commune series is actually tearing along, so I guess I’d rather have this problem than the alternative: the dreaded Writer’s Block.

 

US Military Men & Women – Share Your Stories! #marines #army #navy #airforce #coastgaurd

military

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.

Josh

A Letter to my Son @jockowillink #writing #fatherhood #mothersday

I saw a video posted by Jocko Willink recently that focused on Mother’s day.  In it, Jocko read a letter he had written to his daughter about her mother, his wife, describing a side of the woman that his daughter would never get to see and could never know (because a lot of it had to do with the woman she was before the kids were born).

The video and letter were intense (just like everything Jocko does, the dude never fails to be totally switched on) but I also thought they were a brilliant, very Jocko thing to do.  Immediately, I wanted the same experience for my son, and so I decided to shamelessly plagiarize Willink’s methods.

What follows is a letter I wrote to my ten year old son, who is now that that age where everything his parents say elicits and eye-roll.  This is most especially true in the case of his mother, who spends the most amount of time with him while I’m out at work.

I gave this to my kid and told him, “This is the most important thing I’ll ever write and it may be the most important thing you’ll ever read.”

He began to read it, and then locked himself out in the garage to finish it because he didn’t want anyone to see him reading it.  When he was done, he came back into the house, hugged his mother, told her he loved her, and said he was sorry for everything he may have done.

If you’re a parent, I recommend you do something like this.  This is a gift you can give to your child that allows them to see his or her mother or father from a perspective that would have been impossible otherwise.  It is very powerful medicine.

Anthony,

Now that Mother’s Day is over, I thought I’d take some time to write a few things down and tell you who your mother is.  I didn’t want this to be something I gave you on a special day; sharing stories like this should never need a special occasion.  A lot of what I’m going to write here is stuff I’ve already told you before but I wanted to write it down here.  I want you to be able to come back and pick this letter up and read it and think about it when you need to.

There are things I need to tell you about Mom because she either won’t be able to tell you herself (because it wouldn’t occur to her to do so) or because she doesn’t have the words.  It’s hard for her to express herself sometimes, as I’m sure you know.  A lot of the fights you two get into are based on the fact that you both have a hard time explaining how you feel much of the time.  You take after your mother in many ways.  There are a lot of things that you got from me too but inside, in your head, there are many parts of your brain that work just like hers.  The way you read and understand words, the issues you have with writing, the fact that you get angry and frustrated when trying to talk sometimes, and the fact that you sometimes just want to give up on being heard because you can’t make people understand the way you want them to…all of these things are from your mother.

Some of the best parts of you (my favorite parts) are also from your mother.

As you know, I met your mom when I was 18 years old (she was 17).  I was just out of high school but she had a couple of years to go before she would graduate.  We met at a fair that was put on by the local church (I think we’ve had you there before for a Christmas Mass or something, but don’t bet on it – I’m not the most religious guy and my memory for that kind of stuff isn’t that good).

Before I met Mom, I’d had a lot of other girlfriends.  Some of them I cared for a lot, some of them not so much.  Some of them, I wish I’d treated better.  When I ran into Mom for the first real time (I’d seen her before at school but never really went after her), I was really just out looking for a new girlfriend.  I didn’t want anyone special and wasn’t looking for anyone to marry.  Just looking for a new girl.

When I saw her at the fair, your mother was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.  She was there with a few of her friends and to this day, I still can’t remember exactly which ones were there with her or what they looked like on that evening.  But I remember her and what she looked like very well.  I can see only your mother in my memory.  I wanted to meet her badly.

So I talked to one of my friends who happened to have her phone number and gave her a call out of nowhere.  When I called her, I acted very confident and spoke as though I was in complete control…the truth is that I was incredibly nervous.  It’s hard to make a phone call like that when you don’t know what the person on the other end is going to say.  She could have said anything.  She could have told me I was a weirdo and to never call her again.  These things would have been really hard to hear and I was afraid she would say them.  In the end, I forced myself to call her anyway because I knew that there was also a chance that she would like me and I didn’t want to miss out on that possibility.

There is a world of possibility that exists before you pick up the phone and dial a number.  Anything can happen.  It takes courage to make the call.  One day, you’re going to be in that same position.  I really hope that you’re strong enough to make the phone call, no matter what answer you get.

I did not have to know Mom for very long before I knew I wanted to marry her.  We were still just kids when I’d made that decision – I wasn’t even going to a real college yet, just some junior college where I was killing time trying to decide what I was really going to do with myself for the rest of my life.  I couldn’t have been much more than 19 the first time I asked, and she said yes.

We made it official years later at her parents’ house.  We were both a little older but still very young.  I was either just out of college with my first degree or maybe finishing up; I don’t remember exactly when it was anymore.  The date doesn’t actually matter to me.  This was on a Christmas Eve; I gave her your Nana’s ring and asked her to marry me in front of her whole family.  She said yes again, but I knew she would.  This second time I asked her wasn’t really even a big deal for me or even her, probably.  We both knew we were going to get married.  It’s just that doing it in front of her family made it serious.  It made it real.

The date that matters to me, the night that I remember best, is when I was a teenager and I asked her that first time.  We were in my old neighborhood at night, all the way up at the top of the highest hill and looking out over the city of Chino Hills, all lit up in the darkness, and I asked her, and she said yes.

Your mother is the best person that I have ever known or will ever know.  She is the kindest, most beautiful, most honorable, hardest working woman I’ve ever encountered.  When she was only a little older than you, one of her most favorite things to do in the world was play basketball.  It was one of the few things she was truly good at, that was all hers (besides running).  When your uncle and aunt were born, she was told she couldn’t do that anymore because she had to stay home to help raise them.

Can you imagine doing that?  Every day, your mother, who wasn’t even old enough to start dating boys, was changing the diapers and preparing the meals for both the kids and her mom (your Lita) who was coming home late from work and expecting food to be on the table.  When your mom was old enough to drive, she wasn’t driving around with her girlfriends going to movies or parties or dances.  She was driving her little brother and sister to and from school.  I know; I was there riding along with her.

When she was old enough to go to college, she went.  She wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do for a living, like most kids her age, but she was told by her parents that she absolutely must go to college.  I wanted her to go too because I wanted her to be able to have a job and support herself if anything ever happened to me.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that your mother paid for her own college without any help.

Your mother paid for everything on her own.  When she wanted to go to the Prom or any of the other school dances, or go out on those rare nights when she wasn’t watching the kids, or do anything else that required money, she paid for it.  Mom paid for everything that she wanted with her own money that she earned at Jack in the Box.  She was making shit money and it was a miserable, thankless job that she hated but she went to work and did it every day because there wasn’t anyone there to hand her a few bucks when she needed it and, if there had been, she wouldn’t have taken it.  She didn’t want anyone else’s money.

I can’t remember your mother ever complaining about that job.  She sucked it up and did it.

She sucked it up and she paid for her gas and insurance.  She sucked it up and paid for the few dances that I was willing to take her to (I really wish I had taken her to more).  She sucked it up and paid for her own college.  I never paid for any of my college – my parents saved a bunch of cash to send me and then let me have it when I was ready to go.  I didn’t have to work for it.  I just had to show up and get good grades.  Your mom worked a full time job at the bank (she flipped burgers in high school and worked at the bank when she was in college) and took a full load of classes at college (a full load means that she had to spend as much time working on school stuff as she did working on her job stuff).  Whenever I saw your mom, she was so tired from all the work and the school and worrying about her grades and trying to graduate on time so that we could get married the way we wanted to, that she was either falling asleep, asleep, or she was crying because she was terrified that she was going to fail somewhere and come up short.

But she didn’t.  Despite everything stacked against her, despite all of the excuses she could have made to quit, despite all of the reasons why she shouldn’t have been able to get it done, she got it done.  What she did, all on her own with the help of no one, is amazing and still amazes me to this day.

More than anything, Mom wanted to be a mom.  We used to argue about it a lot when we were kids because she knew she wanted children but I didn’t.  I just didn’t think I was cut out to be a father and the idea of having some little person being totally dependent on me didn’t sound like any fun at all.  I was a kid.  I wasn’t man enough to be a father.

After we got married, she wanted to be a mom even more, and now, I wasn’t just not ready to be a father, I was scared too because I knew we didn’t make enough money to have a baby.  Again, we argued over it, and I always used money to hold her off, too afraid to deal with the deeper issue at hand: she really wanted to have a baby and I really didn’t.

Well, things happen when you’re married, and your mother got pregnant for the first time.  I don’t think we were even married for a full year.  I can’t tell you how afraid I was; she didn’t care, she was just excited she was going to be a mom – it was the most important thing in her life to her, more important than me even.  All I could think about was how I was going to pay for everything.

Well, things happen when you’re pregnant, sometimes, and your mother couldn’t keep the baby.  This was really hard for both her and me.  It was hard for her because of everything I’ve already said here.  Her best most happy dream was to be a mother; she thought she was going to get it, and then that dream was taken away.

What happened to me was a little different.  I went from being terrified of being a father, from not want to be a father, to being excited.  I realized I wanted a baby too.  Everything your mom wanted was starting to make sense to me; I understood why she wanted a child so badly and I was on board now!  I’m going to be a daddy!  And then we lost our first baby.

There actually wasn’t a baby there, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  It’s hard to explain, but your mom got pregnant without actually growing a baby inside of her.  Picture an egg with no baby chicken inside.  So it’s not like we actually lost anything; there was never anything there to begin with.  We were sad, sure, but we were okay.  We both knew we wanted a baby (we wanted you) very badly and we started working on making that happen.  I’m not going to go into detail here, because I don’t want to gross you out.  You know how all this works by now.

The second time your mother was pregnant, it was much worse.  I’ve told you this before but your mom isn’t good at carrying babies inside of her.  This isn’t a skill you can get better at, either; her body just isn’t built to do it well.  She gets incredibly sick and it takes a lot out of her.

This second time she got pregnant, there was a baby in her, only it was killing her to carry it.  The longer she had it in there, the worse it got for her.  She couldn’t keep down any food that she ate; she threw it all up.  Because she couldn’t keep her food down, she couldn’t get any nutrition, so she literally started to starve.  She also couldn’t keep any water down, so she began to dehydrate very badly.

The same thing that happens to people who don’t eat food or drink water started happening to your mom.  She began starving to death very, very slowly.  Inside of her, organs stopped working correctly and I believe parts of her were starting to shut down.  I had her into the hospital every couple of weeks so that we could put an IV in her (that means “intravenous drip”, which is a bag of water that has vitamins that you inject directly into the veins to keep someone from dying of dehydration) and try to get her back up to a safe level but she never got fully back to a place where she was safe.  Towards the end, her appendix failed (which is a tiny organ inside of your body attached to your intestine) and had to be removed.  I truly believe her appendix failed because parts of her insides were starting to shut down on her.

Your mom had a very hard decision to make.  She could try to keep the baby and see how much worse things would get or she could terminate the baby and be better again.  This time was different from when we lost the first pregnancy.  There was a real baby inside of her.  I had seen it in the sonogram (which is a machine that lets you see inside the mother’s stomach).  I had seen the baby’s heart beating.  I saw his legs and arms; his head.  We knew it was a boy from the images.

I don’t know what would have happened if your mom hadn’t stopped the pregnancy but I will tell you: I honestly believe delivering that baby would have killed her.  If she had tried to keep that baby she would have died.

Only at the time, when she decided she had to terminate, I didn’t understand any of this and wanted to keep the baby anyway.  I would tell you we fought over it but there was never any fighting.  She refused to fight.  She said only, “This is what has to happen”, and I begged her not to do it, and she couldn’t give me what I wanted because it would have killed her.

I was too foolish to understand that.  Angry and hurt, I almost divorced her because at that time, I found it really hard to keep loving her.

There was only one thing that kept me from divorcing Mom.  I thought about the woman I had known for the last 9 years and everything I knew about her and asked myself: Would she really be doing this if she didn’t know it was absolutely necessary for her to stay alive?

The answer was: No.  Your mother had no choice.

Now that I realized this, I went back to her and told her how sorry I was for not understanding what she had to do.  I was very, very lucky that she was willing to keep me around, son.

It’s very important that you understand this.  Your mother had to make the hardest decision of her life on her own without my support because I failed to understand what she was going through.

I will never let that happen again no matter what.  I will spend the rest of my life making up for that one failure.  It’s something I myself cannot let go.

One day, when you are married, you may be faced with a decision between what you most want and what your wife needs.  It will be the most important decision of your marriage.  If that day comes, please read this letter again and think about how I failed.  Please learn from what I did wrong.

Your mom had the hardest decision of her life and she made it on her own because no one else around her was strong enough to deal with it.

That’s who your mom is.  She’s strong enough to deal with the things that I can’t handle.

I’m going to leave you with one last thing.  You see, after everything we’d been through, even after nearly getting a divorce, your mother still wanted to be a mom.  She wanted you more than anything in her life and she wasn’t willing to let anything get in the way of that, not even if it meant getting pregnant could kill her.  I was terrified because I didn’t want her to go through it again; I didn’t know if I could go through it again.  But your mom convinced me that this is what she needed and I wasn’t going to let her down.

We got pregnant again, and I sat back, afraid now, waiting for her body to fail her like it had done before.  Only this time, it didn’t.  It was still hard on her.  She still threw up most of her food and spent months and months just being sick and confined to a bed or a couch.  But this time, she was able to keep just a little bit of her food down.  This time, she was able to get more water and keep hydrated.  It never got quite as bad as it did before.  I kept waiting for it to get worse, I kept waiting for the hospital trips to start again…but they never did.

We did about five or six months of her being sick and throwing up every day (but not as bad as before), and then a true miracle happened: she started getting better.  She started being able to eat all kinds of different foods.  She was able to eat pasta and steak and all the things she loved from before she was pregnant.  One day, she and I looked at each other, and we realized that for whatever reason, we were going to get to keep this baby.  And that baby was you.  This moment, when we learned you were going to stay with us, continues to be one of the happiest memories I have.  I’m pretty sure it’s hers too.

After you were born, I found your mother alone one night in the shower, holding her stomach and crying very hard.  You were already born and I had you wrapped up in a crib; I couldn’t understand why she would be holding her stomach and crying like that.  I was afraid she was hurting or that something was wrong so I asked her what was going on, very alarmed, maybe even yelling, but not mad yelling.  Scared yelling.

She told me she was crying because you were outside of her now and that she couldn’t protect you anymore.  There was a big, ugly, fucking evil world out there and she knew she couldn’t get between the world and you every time anymore.  Now that you were born and outside of her stomach, there was a possibility that something could happen to you without happening to her.

Please think about this for a minute, son.  Whatever happened to you, she wanted it to happen to her too.  If, god forbid, there was something that happened that could have killed you, she wanted to die too.

She’s still like that.

Your mom isn’t perfect, kid.  There’re a lot of things she does that drives you and I crazy.  She’s stubborn and impatient and sometimes she gets loud or mean or she might yell or curse.  She can be really hard, I know.  But I need you to remember that this imperfect woman is the same woman that went through hell and nearly killed herself to bring you here because she loved you more than herself even before she knew who you were.

Before she knew who you were she loved you more than anything.  Now that she knows you, sees who you are and the kind of person you’re growing into, she loves you even more.  Like I do.

That’s who Mom is.

She is the greatest woman I’ve ever known and will ever know and my greatest wish for you is that you one day meet a woman for yourself who is for you what your mom has been for me.

The next time you have a chance, I want you to tell her you love her and really mean it.  Don’t just say it because that’s what kids say to moms.  Make her believe it.  It’s critical that you both get it.  The next time you guys fight or you get mad at her for some reason, because she’s being herself and doing what she does, because she’s yelling or because she’s frustrated and not listening to you, please, please come back and read this letter again and remember what I’m telling you here.  Your mom isn’t perfect, and neither are you, buddy.

But never, ever forget who Mom is and how much she loves us.

 

Love you,

Dad

Thanking my newest readers #writing #books #grateful

SaluteYou all know who you are, and because of all the fancy sales tracking and analytic reports offered by the various distribution sites, I know who you are too!

Well, okay, I don’t know who you are.  But I do know that you’re out there, and I see every purchase that comes through.  I feel it’s important to keep repeating how gratified you all make me feel when you decide to invest a little time and money into a story I’d like to share with you.  You didn’t have to do that but you did.

The point is that there’s a guy on the other side of that book you’re reading that hopes he hit all the right marks and made you feel satisfied when you get to that last page.

If you’d like to check in with me, ask me questions about the book after you’ve read it, ask me questions about the upcoming book (getting closer to done every day), or just talk about writing in general, I’m easy to track down.

You can come hit me up on goodreads, or like the page on facebook, follow me on this twitter thingy (all the kids are using it, I guess), or come try out this new mighty networks thingy that I set up and yet currently seems to be swarmed with manifest chirping crickets (I’m not sure this thing is going to take off, you guys).

Or you can use the contact form on this site.  All of these avenues filter back to me in the end and I make it a point to answer everyone.

How to Finally FINISH Your Novel #writing #books

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.

Josh

5 Star review for Commune Book One “Clear, concise, believable and sets the hook from the beginning.” #books #postapocalypse

A lovely 5-star was left for me this morning on Amazon:

Love Joshua Gayou’s style. Clear, concise, believeable and sets the hook from the beginning. Love Billy and Jakes relationship and cant wait to see how Amanda’s path crosses theirs. Sure hope Mr Gayou has sequel ready for publishing. Really looking forward to the whole series.

I can’t describe how gratifying it is to hear feedback like this.  Above all, I set out to entertain when I started writing this series.  Hearing from folks that this has been accomplished makes my whole day; there is simply no other way to describe it.

As I’ve said before, I’m aware of how much content across diverse media platforms is out there competing for your attention.  Everyone’s time is limited and I take yours very seriously.  Chief among my concerns is writing something into which you’ll feel good investing money, time, and energy.

Should you be interested in picking up a copy of the book, you can find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo in ebook and paperback formats (click here for various purchase links).  You can also preview the book and decide if it’s the kind of thing you want to dive into from any of these sites or just click the picture of the book on the right bar of this site.

Should you be interested in discussion or asking questions about this book or any other things in general, you’ll find numerous methods of contacting me here on this site as well.  I’d love to hear from you.

Josh

Author Joshua Gayou on @MightyNetworks #SocialMedia #author #books #fiction

mighty networksI 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:

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).

Joshua Gayou menu

Come connect with me, IF YOU DARE….

MUAHAHAHHAHAHHAHHAHAHHAHAHAAAHHAHAHAHAHHAH!!!

Or, maybe go eat a pack of Oreos.  Those are good too.  But totally come say hi after getting your Oreo on.

What Writing a Book Taught Me About Reviewing Books #reading #writing #books #bookreview

I have a favorite quote that runs as follows:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read.

Anton Ego, Ratatouille

For a kids’ cartoon, this is one of the greatest quotes on the state of The Arts (in general) that I’ve ever heard.  Having written reviews on various films (and to a much lesser degree, books), I can say: yes – writing a scathing review lends itself to a certain perverse enjoyment.  Moreover, I do tend to enjoy similar reviews written by others regarding works that I didn’t like.  Yes, I know.  I’m going to hell.

Then I put my butt on the line and wrote a book.  I have a much different outlook these days.

I have ripped up various authors in the past whose works I considered to be inferior, although I can’t think of an instance of doing so in written form; I usually saved such activity for movies, which have always elicited a stronger, more visceral reaction from me.  But in casual discussion (either spoken or written comments on social media), I certainly have let it fly.

Man, I think all of that is over, for the most part.  I will say, however, that I’m reserving my right to pull the knives out for anyone clearly writing from a cynical point of view.  I’ll give you a good “for instance”, here…

I recently learned of a practice (because this kind of low-level industry stuff tends to fascinate me) wherein romance authors are going back and revising already released work in order to fulfill an ever increasing series of specialized fetish niches.  It hadn’t even occurred to me that this was a thing that you can do, and yet, having published a book, I have found how easy it is to upload a new manuscript any time I felt like doing so.

The more main stream your romance story is, the more competition you have to get noticed.  The more specialized your subject matter is, the more you stand out.  You get more attention.  It’s easier for people to find the book and send money your way.  On top of that, there are the thrill seekers who find themselves drawn to the bizarre out of morbid curiosity and you can probably get a few bucks out of them, if you’re outlandish enough.

Now consider: Author A releases a standard boy-meets-girl story to fairly decent reception.  A solid little base of fans is built up, all of whom buy into the romance and, for better or worse, fall in love with the characters.  Maybe this is a stand alone book or maybe it will grow into a series one day.

Perhaps a year or two later, Author A realizes he or she can generate a lot more notice and money by turning boy-meets-girl into brother-bangs-sister.  Names and relationships are changed, a few scenarios are tweaked, and cover art is swapped out.  A flood of new readers looking for an edgier, more forbidden thrill come rolling in, yet meanwhile a small collection of diehard fans are left wondering what just happened to a series in which they have invested a significant amount of time, thought, and emotion.

It sounds as though I’m escalating this quickly, yet I can assure you that there’s a thick, hardened, cynical rind on the self-publish industry; this is only what I’ve discovered in my short time thus far.  These kind of shenanigans are totally legitimate targets for vicious reviews, as far as I’m concerned.  Unfortunately, I tend not to read this kind of material, so you’re not likely to hear it from me.

All that aside, a lot of the young adult romance/fiction that I used to revile (the Twilight series standing in here as the patsy) was, at some point, the hard work of a writer who was excited about telling that particular story.  It doesn’t matter if I enjoyed the work or not; that story is the representation of someone who worked hard to dream up and create a tale about characters that he or she loved.  It doesn’t matter if it has technical issues, novice writing errors, or issues in plot, or if it is fan fiction, or what reading level it is considered to be.  In fact, some of Hemingway’s best work was on the level of See Spot Run, for God’s sake!

That author felt a drive to create something, and he or she sat down and worked at it.  They didn’t try to get famous for duck faced selfies or get IG hits for flexing their ass muscles in the bathroom mirror.  They made a thing with their own hands, minds, and hearts.  They’re not to be ridiculed.  Whether we enjoy their labor or not, they are to be celebrated, especially in this, our most illiterate of ages.

For this reason, I will never write an unfavorable review for a book I dislike (nor will I write a favorable review for a book I dislike, for that matter).  The author simply bled too much to have a jerk like me rip it to shreds.  I’ll keep my damned mouth shut, thanks.

Film, on the other hand, is a diversion created entirely through cynical means: a marketable product produced by committee for the sole purpose of ensuring a strong return on investment.  Open season, as far as I’m concerned…

A Strange Compliment from a Reader #writing #books

For curious readers with a copy of the book, the chapter under discussion is entitled “Trafficking”.

I received perhaps one of the more bizarre compliments of my (admittedly short) writing career from a reader over the weekend.  In reference to a scene that had some very unsavory people doing some very unsavory things, she commended me on how well I had developed the characters over a relatively short period of time.  I’m not going into details here because I’m trying to avoid spoilers but I feel okay in saying that some pretty dark behavior is explored.

The thing that struck me was that my reader commented on the realism of the antagonists’ behavior in this section of the book.  Said reader is a veteran Soldier who currently works as a Readjustment Counseling Therapist as the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs; within the breadth of her professional history, she has counseled a good number of people who have fallen victim to many types of detestable predator.  From her experiences, she informed me that the characters in Commune Book One exhibited pattern behavior that she has come to expect from a certain kind of scumbag.  Without her actually thanking me explicitly for the way the scene was written, I got the sense that she was grateful that it didn’t devolve into over-the-top melodrama or 1980’s-style Savior Fantasy (i.e. muscle-bound, machine gun totting superman saves helpless damsel).

I was really very happy to get this feedback, as the scene in question was one of the hardest I’ve ever had to write for reasons that should become apparent when it is read.  There are so many things I’m trying to deal with in this series that are serious business and need to be done right; things that need to be tackled honestly.  A lot of research has been done in a lot of areas with which I never would have come into contact in the hopes of depicting things respectfully rather than devolving into schlock exploitation.

I include the use of the adjective “strange” here in this article because, honestly, I didn’t do a great deal of research into the mindset of the predators that I’m depicting in this scene – I spent much more time looking into survivor behavior and coping mechanisms to ensure that the protagonist was faithful to life.  It was important to me that the antagonists be better than two dimensional villains…and that was about it.  I wanted them to exhibit behaviors that, taken in isolation, would seem humorous or even likeable; at no point did I want to have your basic, boring mustache-twirling antagonist.  This would help to serve as an additional shot of cold water to both the characters and the reader when their more despicable behavior comes into play.

From the perspective of predator psychology, I tried only to dream up behavior that, to my mind, was truly horrific – the most human of evils, so to speak.  There are two primary types exhibited in the scene in question: the simple blind, unreasonable rage and the more sinister evil lacking in all self awareness (evil that doesn’t realize that it is evil, in other words).  The behavior of the respective characters developed naturally from these two psychologies.  The fact that (according to a skilled therapist) I was able to produce an accurate portrayal of these behaviors naturally from within my own mind is a little off-putting…