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A Thousand Different Faces

Unless a writer writes solely for himself, for his own personal enjoyment, the goal of the writer is to get at least one other person to read something he wrote. If that one person, the reader, was to use her hard-earned money to purchase something he wrote, even better. If that single reader was to go even further and do something crazy, like actually read what he wrote, then hallelujah! And if the stars were perfectly aligned and it was “in the cards” and if that single reader made the effort to share a comment about the writing, then as a writer, he would have hit the jackpot, would have experienced the Grand Slam of Writing.

I know many writers who are not particularly interested in comments about their writing, and they are not interested in the posted reviews of their books. There are many reasons. For many of them, they cannot be interested, for to be open to the comments and reviews would be to open themselves up to a potential onslaught of emotional turmoil. Like the famous actor who does not watch his own movies and does not read the reviews from his critics, many a writer would simply prefer to focus on the craft of writing. I can understand that. I suppose that if the fortune—the advance—was paid and the product delivered and it was someone else’s responsibility to sell the product for profit, then maybe it is possible to just let it go and not care about what anyone might think. No, even then I think the writer always has to care.

I know that I care.

There is a truly, absolutely beautiful and unbelievably rewarding benefit to being a writer, and it is the realization that there might be one other person in the world who is willing to read the sequence of words you have strung together and who is willing to make the effort to make a subjective interpretation of those words. That’s the magic of the story and the wonder of fiction.

I know that if a thousand people were to read my new novel, Recalled to Life, there would likely be a thousand uniquely personal and subjective interpretations of the story. How cool is that! It may have taken me two years to get my words down onto the pages, to get my story into the hands of the reader, but in the end, it is still simply that—my story. However, for every person who reads my story, it becomes their story, for better or for worse. Because the reader was willing to invest the time to read my story, they have the right to internalize the story and subjectively interpret what I was trying to say or convey. Additionally, the reader has the right to say what she wants about the story. She has earned the right.

I want hear what my readers have to say. I need to hear what they have to say.

I was a member of a writing panel a few weeks ago, and the hundred-plus people in attendance were discussing book reviews and their importance to the writer. I shared that I felt reviews were important as a learning tool for the writer, that only by reading or hearing what people think about a book can a writer truly understand how well he did in communicating the story. Only then can a writer hope to improve. The reader’s perspective matters. The reader’s perception of the story matters, because for the writer, perception is reality.

I also said that the writer’s job—at least this was true in my case—actually begins when the book is published. I want people to read my book, and more important, I want to talk about it. I want the discussion to begin and I want to talk to everyone who will provide me the opportunity. I want to see their faces. I want to hear about every one of the thousand different interpretations of the story or any part of it. I need to “get out there” and make that happen.

I commented more about not only the investment, but also the effort that the reader puts forth to sit down and read a book. It’s a big effort, and I think it is my duty as a writer to show my appreciation for that effort. The effort means a lot to me. The last thing that I mentioned to the group is that the effort is so important to me that I would give a hug to any person who read my book, regardless of the feelings or comments—positive or negative—that the reader may have or express. For any person who is willing to make that investment, that effort, it’s the least I can do.

Let the national hugging tour begin . . . Read More 
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Leaving the Nest

Eventually, the day comes when you need to step out, take the leap, and try to fly all by yourself. Your wings may be tender and your heart may be cautious, but you must be brave and you must take on the challenge, for to sit back and wait any longer would amount to an unbearable punishment.

The time that has lapsed and that has brought us to this moment has been memorable and not without challenge, not without pain. There are memories that ring true and clear as though they just happened, and there are others that have faded into the mosaic fabric of the story. There has been mostly joy in every step taken along our newly created path. Love and passion and determination have been part of the journey, and while we have come to the end of one leg of the journey, a new leg is only just beginning.

I can remember clearly when the dream first came. The dream quickly turned into a plan, which laid the foundation for a course of action to transform the dream into reality. Many challenges and roadblocks arose along the way, but with swift and conscientious determination and action, we prevailed. It took years, but it was time well invested. There was no other option.

There was much learning along the way. Friendship and support presented itself from around every corner we turned. There was questioning and criticism, most of it positive, and all of which served as a driving motivation to succeed. Nothing could stops us. Sometimes there was doubt in the eyes of the facing person, but even that was a force, a propellant, that steered and guided us to where only we could go.

The time has come. With toes up to the edge, the vision is clear out to the horizon. Whether it stays that way is anyone’s guess. The wind blows strong and I can see it beginning to lift you. There is no point in thinking about or fearing what is below. All that matters is what is beyond where you stand now. Your wings are stronger than you think, and your experience is enough to take you where you need to go. Believe it. Step off, headstrong into the world, and take on every challenge and opportunity that comes your way. Embrace everything. The winds of life will carry you as long as it sees fit, and will gently land you where you ultimately need to be. It’s all about the journey, the flight, and the people you see and talk to and impact along the way.

Enjoy the ride, and I’ll be there when you land. Read More 
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We Become What We Think About

Over the past years, I’ve often found that in order to get an idea to come to fruition, all I needed to do was think about the idea. That’s it. Just think. The more I would think about an idea, the more my conscious and subconscious brain would join in to help develop and flush out the idea. Thoughts would turn into other ideas, which would make me think even more, and before I knew it, I had a plan in place to make the idea a reality. It was the motivational speaker Earl Nightingale (someone I knew from a past life) who coined the phrase “We become what we think about,” and those words have rung true for me throughout my life, especially when it comes to being a writer.

Twenty-five years ago, I had my first thought, an idea, about becoming a writer, and I’ve been thinking about that idea ever since. My favorite authors—Bradbury, Crichton, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Harrison, and King—had made me do it – think, that is. Over the years, they had grabbed me and had engaged me with their words and their stories. They had opened my eyes to the limitless possibilities of words and books. Essentially, through the influence of their stories, they had told me to keep reading, and by all means, to start writing.

One book in particular, and a subsequent meeting with the author of that book, set me on my way. The book was Dandelion Wine, written by one of our greatest American authors, Ray Bradbury. I had read other Bradbury books in my earlier years, like Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. But when I read Dandelion Wine, it was the first time I could truly visualize the story as I read it. It was the first time I had become part of the story. It was the first time I had experienced words and sentences strung together in such a unique way: literature with doses of realism and lyrics and poetics. I was hooked. I thought to myself, I want to be able to write a book like that some day. I’m a big dreamer.

I forged ahead with a renewed passion for reading, devouring anything I could squeeze into an already hectic daily schedule. I began reading instructional books on the craft of writing and publishing. I began the process of preparing myself for the inevitable day when I would become a writer.

In 2003, while in San Diego, I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Ray Bradbury. I had heard of a seminar he was conducting at San Diego State University. On a whim, I changed my afternoon plans and drove over to the campus. His two-hour talk about the “love of writing” was truly inspirational and his words made me wonder even more about becoming a career writer. Afterward, I met Ray and he signed a book for me. He asked me if I was a writer, and I told him that I wanted to be one, some day. He said, “Just do it.” And I replied, “Okay, I will.”

Four years later, I became a writer. Although I had been writing for years, I made it official, committing myself to my writing and to the publication of my writing. My fiction writing took off at a feverish pace, but I was quickly distracted. Years earlier, I had come up with an idea for a non-fiction book that would just not leave me alone. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Instead of fighting it, I decided to satisfy the idea and the urge, and I wrote The First 60 Seconds, my first book. The book was published in 2009 and I had the great opportunity to tour around the country to talk with people and to help people realize their next great career opportunity. The book was the perfect ending to a twenty-year business career.

When I got back to my fiction writing, I focused mostly on shorter pieces, which allowed me to flush out many ideas and allowed me to get in some practice using the many skills necessary to write a good sentence. It was hard work, and it still is. I get a lot of ideas for writing projects, and I usually try to see if the idea is worthwhile by attacking it through a short piece, such as a poem or a short story. After that, if I still like the idea and the premise, I’ll consider it for a longer form.

For many of the ideas I get, I simply can’t say for sure where they came from, or why I felt the idea was necessary to pursue any further. In 2009, I came up with an idea for a story about a man whose life was turned upside down when a distant family member came back into his life. I thought about starting off with a short story, but for some reason, I was able to visualize the idea clearly in my mind. Given my love of movies, I decided to write the story first as a screenplay. By the end of the year, the screenplay was finished, and the story of Recalled To Life was ingrained in my mind. I wanted to move on to something else, but I just couldn’t stop thinking about the story.

In 2010, I embarked on a journey to turn the screenplay of Recalled To Life into a novel. The adaptation usually goes the other way, from novel to screenplay, but the process made sense for me—start small, flush it out, and if it still makes sense, go bigger. I continued to think about the story for the next year and the additional words and story lines continued to flow. In April 2011, the novel was completed, edited, and ready to sell.

No one tells you that the hard part of writing happens after you’ve finished a project, but it’s true. Once it’s written, a book needs to be published and promoted and sold, with many of the related tasks the responsibility of the author. So my thoughts turned to publication. Every day I thought about how to publish my book. Thoughts turned into ideas, which turned into plans, and in August of 2012 I was fortunate to sign a publishing deal with Eckhartz Press, an up-and-coming publisher in Chicago.

On the day I received the final publishing contract, I sat at my desk and read through the details one more time. I signed the contract and scribbled the date—8/22/12. As my pen came up off of the paper, I paused. The date seemed significant, memorable. At just that moment, I heard a faint bell ring and I looked up to my computer screen to find a pop-up reminder from my calendar. Inside the pop-up box was, “Ray Bradbury’s Birthday.” I had put that annual reminder in my calendar the week after I met Ray in San Diego. I’ve used that reminder to send him a birthday card every year since, with the exception of this year, as he didn’t quite make it to his 92nd birthday.

Was it a coincidence that I signed a contract to publish my first novel, Recalled To Life, on the birthday of my favorite author, friend, and mentor? Or was it something else, like a good omen or someone looking down on me on one of the most important days of my life? Deep down, I think I know the answer.
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