Saturday, November 29, 2014

Darn Right I'm Thankful

Today is the big day! I'm so nervous and excited that I had trouble sleeping last night. I keep obsessing over small things, though, like should I have more to drink than what I've planned for and should I use plastic tablecloths or just wash the tables when it's over. What I should be thinking about is that I haven't even decided what passages to read or even how many passages to read. 

Before I start thinking too much about what will happen today, though, I want to step back and talk about all that I have to be thankful for. And, despite (and also because of) the troubles of the last months, I do have so much.

My parents opened their home to me without hesitation. It can't be easy to rearrange your house and life to take in another adult and yet they have done it without any fanfare. What I've learned from them is you just help family.

I'm also greatly blessed by my other family, my church family. I celebrated Thanksgiving last night with some folks who have become quite special to me over the years. They love me unconditionally and include me in their family celebrations just like I'm one of their own and make me feel completely welcome. And there are so many other people at my church who have been just as welcoming and loving. They've shared in my sorrow in the loss of my marriage and in my joy with the publication of my book and I thank God for them every day.

And, of course, I'm so thankful for the opportunity to publish my book. Technology is definitely a two-edged sword in many ways, but one of the ways in which it is a blessing is that it affords folks like me unprecedented opportunity to publish our books in a non-traditional way that simply didn't exist before the Internet came along. Even ten or fifteen years ago, I would still be agonizing over finding an agent or publisher who would be willing to take a chance on me as a writer, but today, I'm able to go it on my own and leave the decision as to whether my work is worth reading with the proper people--the readers. If my book is good and enough people say so, word will spread and I'll be successful. But if I don't succeed, I'll know it's because my writing truly wasn't good enough to become popular and not because some agent didn't pick me off the slush pile.

I could go on and on, but I won't--something for which anyone who is reading this will be thankful. I'll end with one last reminder that my launch party is today at 4:30 at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Parkersburg. If you can't make it but would like a copy of Harsh Prey, click here.


Friday, November 21, 2014

My Writing Process: Why I Write

If I recall correctly, the first post I made to this particular blog was about the question of how I know if I'm a real writer. I've long since answered that question in my mind. Even if I hadn't recently published my first novel, I know I'm a real writer. Why? The answer is rather esoteric: because I write. 

The next logical question should probably then be why do I write? I could go in a circle and say because I'm a writer, but that would just be silly. And not in a fun way. So why do I write? For a few reasons.

First, I write because I don't think I can not write. Asking why a writer writes is like asking a runner why he or she runs, but maybe even more basically it's like asking a human why he or she breathes. How could I not? I'm unable not to write. Yes, I can hold my breath for a short time, but my body will force me to breathe at some point. In the same way, I may get busy and not write for a few days, but I can't keep it up forever. Before I know it, I'm here in front of the keyboard, neglecting some urgent task, in order to mentally and spiritually respirate. 

Second, I write because it's the one place where life makes sense. As people who actually know me are aware, my life has been pretty out of control in the last several months. My marriage of 28 years is over in every way except legally, and that part comes soon. At the age of 51, I'm in the process of moving in with my parents (only until the end of the school year or until the perfect apartment comes along, whichever comes first). But when I write, people do what I want them to. The good guy wins. The distressed person gets rescued. The bad guy pays for his crimes. The couple stays married, and not just legally. Even if real life is a bad banana with a greasy black peel, to borrow from the great Dr. Seuss, the world I create when I write is perfectly ripe. Not green anymore, but not mushy and gross. Just right. Why would I not do that?

Finally, I write because I want to make a living writing. And I definitely won't do that if I don't write--well and regularly. The more I write, the more I increase my chances that I can actually make meaningful money at it. That's not as romantic as the other two reasons, but most writers, high-minded working-on-my-art statements aside, want to be able to write full-time, and that can only happen if you're independently wealthy (I'm not--If I were, I would've been Batman a long time ago) or you get people to give you money in exchange for your writing. I'm hoping that will work out, but it definitely won't if I don't keep writing. 

So how about it--want to give me some money in exchange for my writing? Go here

Saturday, November 15, 2014

News and More News!

It seems like some new exciting thing happens every day now that I've published my book. I'm sure this kind of thing will become old hat to me at some point in time, but I kind of hope not. It's a little like my birthday daily and having my professional life working out this way is a nice change from how things are going in other areas, even other areas of my professional life, thanks to the lovely folks at the Wood County Board of Education. But that's another post. This one is reserved for good news, of which there are at least three items.

First, my business cards/bookmarks are on their way! I thought that since I was an author of, you know, books, that it would be cool to make business cards in the shape and size of bookmarks. I designed them myself and they've been manufactured. Now I just have to wait, rather impatiently, for delivery.

Second, my books have started arriving in the mailboxes of my friends who ordered them and the ones I ordered for resale are finally complete and also in the mail. As I may have mentioned before on Facebook, there will (I hope) not be enough for everyone who may want to buy one at the launch party, but, frankly, they're what I could afford. Anyone who wants a paperback will get one (I'll even autograph it for you!), though you may have to wait until the next shipment. If you don't get one at the party, I'll take your order and when it arrives, I'll autograph it and send it off in the mail, or deliver it in person if you live nearby. I'll order a new batch immediately after the party, so they should be back in plenty of time for Christmas.

Finally, my Amazon Author Page is up and running! Every new thing like this just makes me stop and ask if this is real life. I have an author page on Amazon? Yes, it appears so. Here's the link:

button-Gaill-Blackburn-author-central-300x125.jpg (300×125)

I'll end with a request. If you read Harsh Prey, and if you like it, would you please consider adding a review on Amazon and maybe even GoodReads? Positive reviews are what drive book sales and, to be honest, I have no reviews at all. I would really appreciate it. Considering the unthinkably short-sighted decision the school system is contemplating, I need all the sales I can get.

But, like I said, that's another post.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Joys of Life

I'm curled up in bed beside quite possibly the snuggliest cat on the planet looking out into the woods behind my brother's house. I'm the only person awake in the house and, though I'm starving and coffee-deprived, it's a joyous moment.

This has been some week. My book is published and sales have rocketed all the way to low double digits. I'm not that worried about sales at the moment. I feel like once the launch party takes place and I get some folks to give me some reviews on Amazon, things will pick up. But it's on sale and a few actual human beings have bought it. I can cross a major item off my bucket list.

Now, if I want to get to a point where I can do this for a living, I figure I need to do two things: gather a following and keep writing. I already talked about the first one, and I hope to find a way to divvy up my free time between promoting the current book and writing the future ones. That's a bit of a challenge, but I need to remind myself of something I told a former student a few days ago who was lamenting about finding balance in life. It was roughly that life isn't about maintaining balance in the balancing-the-scales sense. Instead, it's like maintaining balances in several accounts. Sometimes you have to take some from one account (writing, in my case) in order to maintain the balance in another (promoting) or yet another (teaching, grading, etc.), but eventually, you need to pay the balance back, which, for me, means finding times, like this long weekend, to get away from home and just write.

So that's what I'm doing. Just writing and relaxing. And snuggling with this insanely affectionate cat. Life is good sometimes.

PS--I can't completely ignore shameless self-promotion. Here's the link if you would like to buy my first novel, Harsh Prey. I really believe you'll like it.

HARSH PREY--Paperback or Kindle

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

So Much For Which To Be Thankful

Yes, I know, it's Tuesday and I always post on weekends, but it's election day, which is one of those days I'm thankful I'm a teacher. Last night wasn't a school night, which meant I could stay up and watch the football game. I fell asleep early in the first quarter, but only because I wanted to, not because I had to get up for work the next day. And I got up a whole 20 minutes later than normal, which doesn't sound like sleeping in, but I got up when I wanted to, not when I had to, so it counts. And for all of that, I'm thankful.

Speaking of thankful, I realized after my book went out as a Kindle edition that I hadn't put an acknowledgement page in and I was simply mortified. So, by way of righting that wrong, I want to give some important folks well-deserved thanks.

First, I want to thank my students who encouraged me to pick up the pen (in the electronic sense) again and get this book finished. I imagine it was so they could quit hearing about how I was a frustrated novelist and start at least hearing different complaints, like how no agent has the good sense to represent me. But seriously, so many of you told me that I could do it and that I should. I can honestly say that I would never have finished this book without you guys.

I also want to thank Sandy Tritt, who edited the beginning of this book and taught me the ins and outs of self-editing. With your help, I took a bloated, self-important blob of a book and turned it into a sleek, smooth, quick read that I think people will actually enjoy. Thank you so much!

Next, I want to thank officer Chris Morehead, the Prevention Resource Officer at my school and a veritable fount of knowledge about police procedures. I was amazed at what I didn't know and at how patient you were, Chris, in answering all my sometimes stupidly simple questions. I deeply appreciate you, not only for your help with this book, but also for all that you do to maintain a sense of sanity at PHS.

Next, I want to thank the late, great Robert B. Parker, my writing hero. The day I picked up The Godwulf Manuscript, my literary life changed. I can say without question that Harry and Dee Shalan would never have existed if not for you. I wish I could have told you that in person, but I hope you're somewhere that you can hear it now.

Finally, I want to thank my family and friends for all of your support and encouragement throughout this process. So many kind words that I can't even count them all. You have no idea how much it means to me.

I know I said finally in the last paragraph, but over and above all of the folks I've mentioned is God. Throughout the writing, editing, and publishing of this book, as well as the rough personal times I've been experiencing, I've felt the warm and comforting presence of God more acutely than ever before in my life. No success would have any meaning if I didn't know I was saved by the blood of Christ, so to him I give the glory.

So if I had remembered to put an acknowledgement page in my book, that's what it would have said. The good part about putting it on here is that, when I inevitably remember someone I should have included, I can just come back here and add them. I hope that's sufficient, though I'm not sure there are enough days left in my life to adequately thank all these amazing people. God bless you all.

PS: (Warning--shameless self-promotion ahead) Don't forget to buy my book! Kindle only for now, but paperback soon, hopefully this week. Here's the link in case you missed it the last eleventy billion times I put it out there.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Did I Say December?

Anyone who follows this blog knows that last week I made the commitment to publish my book by December. Well, after I said that, I did little else during my spare time for the next three days than first research and then choose an outlet for publication. I looked at several websites that offered self-publication packages and, frankly, was completely lost, so I went to my friends at Google+ with the question of what to do. The overwhelming majority replied that CreateSpace was the way to go. I'm here to tell you they were right. Within two days, I had my book uploaded with a proof copy of the paperback version in the mail and the ebook available for Kindle on Amazon. Assuming there are no issues with the proof copy, I'll have paperbacks on sale in the next week. It was a surprisingly quick process.

I've even begun plans for a publication party. It is scheduled for November 29, with exact times and location to be announced soon. Any of you who know me in the meat world and are able to be here, I would love it if you would come. There will be snacks, a reading, and books for sale--I'll even sign them for you! Wow--can't believe I'm saying that. :)

Here's the link in case you want to download Harsh Prey to your Kindle or Kindle app: