Sunday, April 12, 2015

Living the Dream

How a reader’s email told me that I am doing just that, at long last.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to tell stories.  My imagination has always been way over sized.  I remember at the age of 8 acting out scenes from the Lost in Space, Combat!, and Twelve O’Clock High TV series.  My home’s elevated back patio was perfect for the former.   My best friend and I would set up lawn chairs at one end of it—those became the flight chairs for the Jupiter 2.  A short set of steps at the left leading down to the yard, framed by iron guardrails, became the airlock.  We even wore discarded Morton’s salt cylinders on our backs as air tanks.  I was the director, of course, and would lead us in all kinds of imaginary adventures.

The flight deck of the Jupiter 2-in my 8 year old imagination
I wrote my first short story in the 6th grade.  It concerned an armed rebellion where the kids, operating flying desks complete with military armament, took over the school.  This kind of prose would get you expelled today and probably thrust into intense psychotherapy.  I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether my scribblings left me warped for life.  But the record reflects that I have managed to avoid harming anyone or getting arrested for anything up to this point.  Given my current circumstances, I believe that record will remain intact (but I promise nothing; being the Walter White of bloggers and authors does change one’s outlook!)

Some kids want to be firefighters or pilots when they grow up.  I fantasized about being a science fiction writer like my lifelong idol, Robert Heinlein.  I discovered, to my dismay, that breaking into that incredibly competitive field was not easy; there’s no HR office to go to where you can apply for such a job.  I took a gig in news broadcasting because it offered me the opportunity to write and actually get paid for it, which was a joyous thing even if it wasn’t precisely what I had dreamed of.  But it beat waiting tables while I worked on my first novel (I sketched out a sci-fi adventure that may yet see the light of day, in heavily rewritten form, at some point).  As I progressed up the TV news ranks, spare time available for writing on the side became harder and harder to come by, and eventually disappeared altogether.

I’ve already told the story of how I quit my day job two years ago to double back and pursue the dream anew.   No need to repeat that here.  As I’ve said many times, a writer writes not primarily to get rich or famous or any of those things (although those certainly are wish list items) but rather because that’s what a writer does.   A writer writes for the same reason a bird sitting on a wire sings.  The bird is being a bird.  In the same way, a true writer has to follow his or her nature.   All other considerations are secondary.  Maybe you’re a literary genius.  Maybe you’re not competent to compose soup can labels.  Both scenarios share one common denominator:  if you’re a writer, that’s what you do.  It’s your blessing, and your curse.

One of the things many authors fantasize about accomplishing with their writing is to make a heart-to-heart connection with readers. You have something to say.  Naturally, you want people to hear it, and appreciate it, and even be moved by it.  Yes, this is about ego.  Of course it is.  Which is another way of saying that it’s about human expression, the desire for which is a basic part of the human experience.

Which leads me to the email I received this week.

It’s from a reader.  She told me I could share her name with you, but I don’t wish to embarrass her, so I won’t, since she also admitted she’s shy about posting comments.  My recent blog post about my health issues and the life changes they have led me to make prompted her to contact me.  She said she loved the book.  And she wrote the following:  “I have this one idiosyncrasy when it comes to books I really enjoy.  I read and reread the final chapter.  I have read your final chapter probably 30 times.  It was a great story and ending.”

What can an author say to something like that?  I wrote her back, thanked her, and told her that her words will stay with me. 

And they certainly will.  Because this email tells me something.  30 re-reads?  That is just so incredible, and so moving.  And it lets me know that I am beginning to make that heart-to-heart connection that authors aim for. 

It may surprise you to see a comment like that in reaction to a sci-fi/post-apocalyptic thriller.  For those who haven’t read it, at first glance the plot description of my sci-fi novel does sound a lot like the typical zombies-running-around-munching-on-people fare that folks have come to expect from the genre.  I tried to make it something more.  There is a definite message about life and spirituality hidden in there.  I pull all those threads together and wrap them up in the final chapter.  That final chapter was, in fact, the real reason I wrote the novel to begin with.  I had tears streaming down both cheeks as I wrote certain parts of it.  So now you know why that email meant so much to me.

It’s just one comment, of course, from just one reader.  But that is where it starts.  And a life in TV news has taught me that where there is one person who is willing to reach out to you with kind feedback, there are many, many more out there who might feel the same way.  Oh, I don’t expect to be on the New York Times best seller list any time soon, if ever.  I started from scratch, and building readership is a long, slow process.  But this tells me that I really have begun to live the dream.  Health issues notwithstanding, I would not trade places with anyone.

Today is my last radio broadcast, after which I will focus on my writing again full-time when not dealing with medical treatments.  I hope you get a chance to listen in.  I’ll probably do some “best of” segments this evening, reflecting back on some of the fun we’ve had.  And there will be one last round of Ventures tunes. 

I’m moving on but not going away.  I’ll be posting regular updates on my blog and also my Facebook author page for as long as I can.  I invite you to check in often.  To give you an added incentive to do that, I have begun the process of uploading my library of comedy skits.  You should find something new just about every weekday.

And, oh, yeah—buy my books!  :-)


For those living outside Tucson looking for an Internet connection, my program streams here. It begins at 5pm local time, which this time of year corresponds to 5pm Pacific, 6pm Mountain, 7pm Central, and 8pm Eastern.

You can learn more about my novels on my author’s website, here.

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