We’ve been doing a lot of tidying up and clearing out at our place during the shelter-in-place. That means going through lots of boxes that have piled up in the garage and elsewhere.
Buried deep in one of those boxes was my sole remaining copy of the first book I wrote. It was published in 1995, when I still worked for the Dept. of Defense. I remain very proud of this publication.
Hi, everyone. Today, I’m going to talk about how I came to write my very first book, Born of War … Dedicated to Peace, back in 1995. (This link will take you to a free download of the book.)
I was still working for the Department of Defense, on the Presidio of San Francisco. The garrison had been decommissioned under the Base Realignment and Closure Act‘s 1988 directive, despite numerous efforts to prevent that happening. I worked for Sixth U.S. Army, as the Command Information Officer. All of us at Sixth Army were assured our jobs were solid for another five years at least, as we would be tenants of the National Park Service.
Six months later, we all had reduction-in-force (RIF) notices, stating that our jobs were going away and Sixth Army was to be decommissioned.
As we planned the draw-down, it became apparent that we needed a very special souvenir indeed to give to people who came to the closure ceremony. Because my job was to write about the command, I was given the task of researching and writing the copy. I wasn’t alone in the process: colleagues Michael Murphy (design/layout) and Sgt. Maj. Pat Maddox (photographic researched) were huge helps. I was also blessed to be friends with Lt. Col. (Ret.) Edward J. Erickson, PhD, who was on active duty at the time. The now-renowned historian helped me with a portion of the text where I was struggling and he was a subject matter expert.
Despite having been a writer since I was a kid, I never really imagined that I’d write a book … let alone that it would be a military history. And yet, there I was. The day I held it in my hands was one of the proudest of my life.
Born of War was a work-for-hire; I was paid to write it as part of my day job. The research proved to be more interesting than I anticipated, and I truly enjoyed working on the project.
This question comes from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, and will be the last one for 2018.
1. One of the cats. Seriously, they like to “help.” At the moment, it’s Gracey; she’s a lavender point snowshoe Siamese, and is the most mischievous of our feline family members.
2. My bulletin board. It’s always covered in reference ephemera from my most recent research trip, so I can grab what I need if I want to double-check something.
3. Model horses. I have a huge collection, and most of the display shelves are in my office.
4. A soda. I don’t drink coffee (I know, it’s a shocking thing to confess). My favorite sodas are regular Coke, Vanilla Coke, and Dr. Pepper.
5. My diploma from the Defense Information School. I graduated from Public Affairs Officer Course 4-90, with honors. The first 16 years of my “day job” career were with the Dept. of the Army as a civilian, and it was during that time that I wrote my first book. Born of War … Dedicated to Peace is available via Scribd.
The subject for today’s article is the Question of the Month for the Insecure Writers’ Support Group … and it’s one I get myself from time to time. So, here’s the unvarnished truth.
First, let’s get this out of the way: this question is not about feeling discouraged. I have confirmation from a best-selling author that this happens to every single one of us. This is about throwing in the towel. For me, the short answer is yes, I did.
What happened was this: I was a newspaper editor, which was the job I had aimed for with my career since I was 18 years old. I had just written my first book, a work for hire called Born of War … Dedicated to Peace. I had been assured that my role on the military base was safe, but that had proven untrue; the organization for which I worked was being inactivated. The Dept. of Defense had found me another job, but it was one in a role I hadn’t held for well over a decade … and for a boss who turned out to be abusive. That’s a story for another time.
To make a long story very short, I stopped thinking of myself as a writer, because my day job no longer entailed developing stories, researching the news, and all of the other things that I thought made me a writer. I didn’t pick up the proverbial pen again for almost a decade.
What made me come back to it? Honestly, a short story idea that didn’t shut up until it turned into my first novel, In The Eye of The Beholder. I had characters showing up in my head who demanded to be released into the world. It took me four years to finish the book, but within short order I had both a UK and a US publishing contract for the tale. I’m not going to lie; I was lucky in that regard. I had contacts who made introductions to some people, and things fell into place. When the rights reverted back to me on both contracts, I re-released the book on my own.
During those moments of discouragement I mentioned earlier, I wondered aloud on Facebook why I dared to call myself a writer. Several of my friends said the same thing: “You are a writer; you write.” And that’s the bottom line. As long as we are still writing, we are writers.
I’m not an especially religious person, but there are numerous Biblical references that say “Therefore, be not discouraged.” I think that, regardless of our faith (if any), we can all use the reminder not to give up on our dreams of writing.
Just for today, therefore, be not discouraged. Give yourself the same advice tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.
If you are writing, you are a writer.