Authors Are Public Figures

I get that, and I don’t dispute that fact. For the rest of my life, I will forever be associated with the characters I write. Whether it’s fair or not (and that’s another blog post entirely) my character’s values (or lack thereof) will be compared to my values. And that’s okay. I’m a big boy with a steel spine, and I can take whatever the world dishes out about me and Casey. The first one through the brick wall always gets bloody. Always. And I don’t mind leading the charge, because change happens when I tweak people’s expectations, and I push people just beyond where they want to go.

With Casey, it’s still a delicate act, and I’m working out the proper mathematical formula, but I don’t mind giving it a few more rounds (novels). So I’ve sat idly by while everything from my plotting to my character development to my writing was questioned, and sometimes spewed with enough vehemence to make Hannibal Lector blush. But I brush myself off and move on, because readers are entitled to their opinions, and I’m a reader first, writer second. It’ll always be that way, because I started reading (or more accurately had books read to me) before I ever picked up a pen and paper, and I’ve read more books in one year than I’ll probably ever write in my entire life. Again, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

But where I draw the line is when you start attacking my friends and family. At that point you’ve crossed over from being a reader into being an asshole, and I have a really low tolerance when it comes to assholes. Maybe it’s the introvert in me (who met his share of bullies), or maybe I’m focused on truth, justice, and the American way, but whatever it is, I can no longer sit idly by and let this shenanigan stand.

Here’s the title for the Amazon review: “Just because your friends said they liked the story, doesn’t mean it’s true.” For you grammatically astute folks playing at home, we have a tense shift in the middle of a sentence. Last time I checked, not a good idea, but we’re moving on. This reviewer is an author. Yep, that scared the shit out of me, too. But it gets better, as I dissect this a bit further. Reviews are opinions, and I haven’t found a single person yet that disputes this, not even this reviewer. But what this one simple sentence says is that my friends and family are liars, and they’re not entitled to their own opinion. Yep, even Casey Holden doesn’t have his head that far up his ass.

Where Have All The Opinions Gone

“Opinions are like assholes; everybody has one.” My dad, who always has a way with words, often uttered this in my direction from the time I was old enough to understand what he meant. Let’s take a few minutes and actually dissect this sentence, since there are plenty of lessons to be learned here. First, let me back up a minute, and say I’ve been on both sides of this issue, as an author and a reviewer, and it’s never fun to be threatened within an inch of your life, told you have hamster-sized genitala, and that your opinion is invalid simply because it’s not in 100% agreement with the opinion of someone else. For those of you marching to the beat of the opinion police, I have three words in response: Fuck. That. Shit. If you can’t have a nice calm discussion with a reviewer, then don’t have a discussion at all. Nobody’s forcing you to provide your two cents, and nobody’s forcing you sons-of-hamsters to start an Internet Holy War complete with battering rams and pitchforks. No good can come from it, except death and destruction.

This brings me to another point: You can’t argue with stupid. When you do, that just makes two of you. If you want to piss and moan and dismember a person’s life just because of a review, then frankly, my friend, you have more time on your hands than I do. Which leads me to another point: If your life is so insignificant that you simply troll the Internet to accost unsuspecting souls for what you believe to be the greater good of society and to somehow prove that you’re one righteous, motherfucking bastard, then you probably need to find something better to do with your time. Like right now. As in immediately.

And if you do happen to be a stupid asshole, and you believe you were given some divine authority by God, the devil, your mother, or Jesus Christ himself to police the Internet, you may want to stop, pause, lather, and get over yourself. Because here’s a little secret: You weren’t given the power and authority to bitch slap whoever the hell you want just for your own entertainment. Just close your mouth and crabwalk away as fast as you can, because once you castrate yourself or someone else, those words stay out on the Internet. Like forever.

There Are No Rules

Whenever a fellow writer tells you there are specific rules to follow, and that under no circumstances can you break them, or you will be banned forever from the writing world, and forced to join a religious cult to keep your alienated existence on life support, you can rest assured that they are full of shit. Writers break rules all the time. It’s as much a part of our existence as eating, sleeping, and breathing. You don’t need quotation marks if you’re Cormac McCarthy; you don’t even need to be a particularly good writer if you can pull Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight out of your bunghole and wholeheartedly connect with your intended audience; you don’t need to adhere to Point of View (POV) if you’re J.K. Rowling; you don’t need stellar character development if you’re John Grisham…and I could go on, but you get the general idea.

What you do need, though, is an unprecedented passion for the craft, and a strong willingness to write every day, or if not daily, at least regularly. Wait, you don’t need a regular writing routine either, if you’re Thomas Harris or Wally Lamb or George R.R. Martin. Crap! But you do need to read often and regularly and across multiple genres, since reading the voices of others helps you find and perfect your own voice. It’s also a great way to start the karma train moving in your direction, so it doesn’t pass you by, and move on to the next stop or town. And it’s not really stealing if you pull bits and pieces from yourself, those around you, and little snippets from everywhere you go. Eavesdropping on conversations is no longer frowned upon. In fact, it’s highly encouraged, and when the questionable looks float your way, your response is simple: “I’m a writer.” And the person will nod in solemn solidarity, understanding with absolute certainty your struggle and strife to eke out a living in a world filled with books and attention spans that often resemble the insect community.

The Real Definition Of Try

Try is a rather arbitrary term. What I’ve often found, though, is people draw a line in the sand when they try a particular task for the first time. They say, “I’ll put this much effort into it, and if it doesn’t work, then I’ve done all I can do.” But have you really? Or have you just made an excuse for not completing whatever it is you set out to do in the first place? Then, the next opportunity to try comes along, and the task is repeated all over again with the same result: failure. And after you’ve failed a few times, you decide to give up altogether and not really take any risks at all. And that’s a great life, isn’t it? You don’t really have to fail at anything because you’ve never really tried.


I’ll let you in on a little secret. I fail at writing every single day, most of the time it’s multiple times a day, and in rarer cases I fail for months or even years at a time. I’ve scrapped words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and entire drafts all in the slim hope that I might somehow improve my writing. I’ve written multiple drafts before I’ve submitted my work anywhere; I’ve written reviews where the audience has peeled back layers of my skin; and I’ve written novels where I was attacked on both a personal and professional level for my work. Yet, I’m still standing and writing and accumulating rejection letters and prolonged bouts of silence for my latest manuscript endeavor at a record clip.


The only reason I’ve had even the slightest inkling of success: I didn’t draw a line in the sand. Not even a little one. If I had, I would have either moved the line over a thousand times by now, or I would have given up about thirteen years ago. Without even realizing it, I probably would have placed an expiration date on my writing. Writing, though, is better served on a platter without a sell by date.

Having Faith

It’s amazing to me how much of my life requires faith—and I’m not even talking about the religious kind—but faith to apply for jobs that I sometimes feel like I have no business applying for; faith to try new books and new opportunities and meet new people, knowing some will work out and some will not; faith to write books knowing that I will fail many more times than I succeed and that others, in many cases, won’t view my work with nearly as much enthusiasm as I do; faith to write reviews and send them out onto the Internet and into the blogosphere in the off chance that someone might find my reviews helpful, or even slightly meaningful, or possibly if I’m really lucky, enlightening; faith to continue to trudge ahead when I face one brick wall after another, where one bad day seems to roll into the next and before I know it I’ve faced a week of bad days; faith to trudge on when the odds are stacked against me, and when it feels like the entire world is looking in the other direction.

What I’ve learned is having that much faith is a truly rare gift, and that even if I’m filled with that much faith, or confidence, that I still have my doubts, those moments where it feels like it will all go to hell, but it won’t really matter because no one is paying attention anyway, and I can make whatever mistakes I need to make, and that ends up being another great gift: the opportunity to fail miserably without the whole world watching. Just when it seems like I’m at my lowest point, and there’s no way I can move up from the bottom of the glass, I realize that people really do care, that they are paying attention, and maybe I can’t measure it, or quantify it, or even extrapolate it and place it on a graph, but it’s there just the same. And while encouragement from others is a great and wonderful and beautiful thing, the best strength comes from within.

Pushing Through The Ruckus

If you can walk around like a peacock strutting with your feathers out, flashing your naughty bits for all the world to see, and look at yourself in the mirror seven times a day, you’re probably doing just fine. And you don’t have to be George Clooney to make looking in the mirror a rather stupendous and momentous occasion. What you have to do, though, is reach some sublime level with your writing talents. You have to embrace your strengths, recognize your weaknesses, realize you have flaws on display, and somehow be okay with this entire process and experience. You have to recognize that you may never make a lot of money, and that no one but you and a few trusted friends may ever read what you have to say, appreciate it, or possibly even enjoy it, and that you may have a string of rejection letters from agents and editors that stretches to the moon and back. Yet, you still have to get up each morning with a smile on your face, a gleam in your eye that could turn about six dozen heads, and pound away at the keyboard like there’s no tomorrow or yesterday, only right now.

You’re probably thinking that it’s fucking impossible. And maybe it is. Putting yourself on display and cutting open blood vessels takes courage and guts and a transcendent belief in some higher purpose. A higher calling where you reach outside yourself and find some slice of adrenaline that takes you over the next hill and pushes the next set of barriers and roadblocks your way. Even if you like to think positive (and I certainly hope you do), obstacles will cross your path, testing your allegiance to the craft, and trying to steer you off course into the rosebushes. Temptation will lurk everywhere; happiness may seem like some elusive concept better reserved for luxury boxes; and you may have some trouble deciphering the two concepts. But you have to find a way to push through the ruckus and muck, otherwise you’ll quit before you’ve even started the game.

Gaining Confidence With Your Writing

Writing strips away the self-confidence of even the most confident individuals. It’ll plague you with self-doubt, cause you to question your very existence, leave you bumbling and stumbling your way through manuscript after manuscript unsure if your writing will go anywhere other than a Dumpster or landfill, and when praise comes your way, you’ll eat it faster than a Happy Meal after you’ve starved yourself for two days. Unless praise proves to be in short supply, constantly being handed out to the other guys and gals, and your debut novel tanks faster than a submarine with a missile stuffed in its jaws. In that case, you’d better figure out some other way to find the road to happiness, or else you’ll be whistling at your own writing funeral, and the carcass will be a stack of half-completed manuscripts, or a broken laptop tossed through a third story window.

But when you rise from the very bottom of the ocean, finally reaching the surface, and gasping for breath as you tread water, you realize how strong you really are. If you can suffer through the worst of the obstacles, and somehow keep on moving forward, constantly pedaling as cement block after cement block is tossed in your path, you’ll come out a better, stronger, and fitter person on the other side. Your confidence rockets to some higher plateau, a level you never thought was possible, let alone attainable, and you end up in a place where you’ve seen it all before. And you’ll keep writing and plugging along, churning out page after type filled page, the words sometimes flowing so freely you feel like the luckiest bastard around, and other times so difficult that you feel like you’re reinventing the writing process, but either way, it satisfies some urge deep within you, some need that only words and stories can satisfy.

Whether you sell a million copies, or pawn them off to friends and family members at holiday functions, or just stuff completed manuscripts in a drawer, before moving on to the next project, you’re doing what you love, and no one can take that away from you. And once you’ve discovered that, you’ve discovered the greatest gift of all, and everything else pales in comparison.

When You Have To Write

Confidence is an elusive concept, isn’t it? We find it; the bar moves; and then we struggle to keep up in the ensuing aftermath and mayhem. With writing, this bar proves even more transitory, shifting about as often as a New Mexican wind, and leaving a sea of sand in its wake. There’s no shortage of readers willing to dissect your writing and tell you what you aimed to do with your particular piece, while you’re left with a finger up in the air and no one looking in your direction. But rather than achieve a level of anger or aggression and setting out on some level of terroristic destruction, you’re much better served with a few deep breaths, a piece of chocolate, and a reevaluation of why you’re even writing in the first place.

If you’re writing to make loads of money, or for the chicks or hunks, or to prove to the world what a witty son-of-a-bitch you really are, then you may need to reevaluate your purpose, and possibly put your finger back down. But if you’re writing because you absolutely have to write, that you feel incomplete and unfulfilled if you don’t put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, then does it really matter if the world doesn’t see you as some witty genius? Maybe you’re an unrecognized talent that just hasn’t found the right train (there really is an element of luck to publishing success), or maybe you’re only a genius in your own mind.

Isn’t that why all of us write? To gain some sense of self-satisfaction, or self-expression, or giving ourselves a voice where it wouldn’t otherwise be heard, or maybe our brains are hardwired to do our thinking with our hands instead of our mouths. So we put ourselves out there on display, naked as the day we were born. And we don’t have to worry about whether or not people are actually paying attention. Sometimes they will be, sometimes they won’t be, but either way we’re writing because we have to do it, not because we want to do it.

Words We Write For Ourselves

“Why is it that the words that we write for ourselves are always so much better than the words we write for others?” – William Forrester

I’ve often pondered this question, since I wrote in school because it was required (and hated nearly every minute of it), and written for myself for approximately thirteen years (and loved nearly every minute of it). Maybe it’s because I leave a piece of myself behind like a blood sample on nearly every page; maybe it’s because I find it much easier to express myself through writing than talking, and that my brain seems more conducive to typing than it does to actually carrying on a conversation; maybe it’s because the delete key solves many a problem that I face in the universe; maybe it’s because I had more stories contained within me than I ever thought possible; or maybe it’s because I sometimes feel as though I save up or store words for the right moments, and many of those moments make their way to the page.

Whatever the reason, though, writing for myself excites me, because I don’t have to worry about rules, or the audience for my completed manuscript, or if my grade will be an accurate representation of my talent, or lack thereof. First and foremost, I need to make myself happy, writing the kind of story I would like to read, and let the rest of it work itself out through fisticuffs, or the passage of time. When someone connects with one of my stories, or another piece of writing I may have done, I feel like they’ve somehow connected with me. And while it used to bother me more if someone didn’t get or understand what I had done, now it tends to bother me a little less. Putting myself out there, laying it all on the line every time I sit down to dine (or in this analogy write) and continuing to do so…well, there’s something heroic about that. And heroes get remembered.

A Beautiful First Date

Having an editor turn to you in a crowded room and start up a conversation through no provocation on your part equates to seeing a beautiful woman across the bar and having her wink at you, or giving you a look that opens the door to further dialogue. Had I been struck by lightning at the time, it wouldn’t have surprised me, even though I was indoors. And having a manuscript that said publisher might be interested in proved to be a bit fortuitous on my part. With renewed purpose, I attacked my female amateur sleuth vigorously and passionately, the muse appeared, life had meaning, the stars aligned, and the odds appeared to have turned in my favor.

Now we have the happy ending and cue the closing credits, right? Well, not exactly. Despite 13 or so years of writing, my life has never worked out that perfectly. But PageSpring Publishing did read my manuscript, at least the first 30 pages, and I received a rather large earful of feedback, the best part of which was that Ms. Seum believed my writing had merit. And I discovered firsthand through someone in the know that I hadn’t written what I thought I had. You see, I thought a cozy murder mystery was within my grasp and danced across the printed page, but instead, the voice was more hard-boiled than light and airy and breezy.

But had I failed? I don’t believe I had. That voice was as much a part of me as my hands and toes, and I breathed life into this rather quirky individual who had a rather complicated and unique outlook on life. Yeah, it meant I had plenty of road ahead of me, and that it might be filled with orange cones and detours, but that conversation was still the best thing that could have happened to me at that particular point in my life.

In the end, it was only a beautiful first date, but that date injected meaning and purpose into my writing life. So now I have a new plan, and new opportunities ahead of me. I further realized my hard-boiled roots are deeper than the ocean. And that’s perfectly okay with me.