A note on my novel’s release
So it’s official: I’m a published author. This means, of course, my life will be drastically different from now on. Hippies who have tried and failed to write books on world peace during their brief periods of sobriety will gaze upon me with envy. Passing women in the street will have an overwhelming urge to throw their panties at me, even if they have no idea who I am. I can kick sand in the faces of unpublished writers at the beach. Tom Clancy and Stephen King will beg me to hang out with them in New York, but I’ll give them the stiffarm so I can hit the bars in downtown Houston with Karl Marlantes and Tim O’Brien instead. Sudden success, fame and fortune will drive me to heavy drug use, so after I crash and burn I can star in the literary version of “Behind the Music”. Bookstores will pay me several million dollars to do a book signing. I’ll be invited to teach all those confused college professor saps at Harvard how to really write a book. Awestruck masses will view me a wise sage, able to turn any mundane event into enrapturing prose through the magic of my compositions. My wife will be so flush with pride about my books she’ll consider actually reading one of them. It’ll be a different world. Seriously.
Okay, now let’s talk about reality. As of today, I have one book electronically released by a small company, Tactical16, that publishes veterans’ stories in addition to conducting several other functions. The mainstream publishing world operates differently than Tactical16 and in general isn’t too interested in military fiction. This book may never have seen the light of day if I had only tried to push it through traditional agents and publishers. I understand that my accomplishment today is not the same as publishing through a major name like Random House. It won’t get the advertising budget a major publisher would put into it.
Therefore, I can’t go overboard congratulating myself, or look down on all the other aspiring writers I’ve commiserated with, or go around bragging that I’ve been published. The truth is that fellow war veterans saw my writing and liked it, and gave me this opportunity to publish through their company. The process was much simpler and quicker than going the traditional route, which I am still trying to do with another book.
I also know that this book isn’t full of lofty prose, and doesn’t transport readers into a magical fairytale world where the mountains, rivers, rural villages and land mines of Afghanistan are brought to life. My intent with this book was to share my very literal feelings about the war I experienced. I wanted the reader to have a sense of the enormous obstacles we faced, to mentally experience a situation where anything you do is wrong, to understand how a common family man can watch an air strike and sincerely hope other family men were blown to shreds by it. I wanted readers to get a tiny taste of the feeling of power that energizes you when you advance with hundreds of soldiers into the enemy’s holy ground. I wanted people to see how you can come home from war and feel nothing but inner conflict about what you did and what it meant. I want people to see why, when someone tells me “It would be so easy to win the war, just use drones to kill all the Taliban”, I want to figuratively stab them in the face. And why when someone says “We just need to nuke that whole country and kill ‘em all!” I want to literally stab them in the face. I want people who have been desensitized by ridiculous, over-the-top war movies and TV shows to see why an act as simple as walking out the gate of an outpost can be incredibly brave. I want someone to understand, and that someone might be me, why after one fight I sat alone in a darkened room and cried over the death of someone I never met.
In other words, I didn’t write this book to impress anybody. I wrote it to tell a story that I think matters to a lot of people. I don’t expect this book to make the New York Times bestseller list or to be made into a movie. I hope the book has modest success. But I know it might languish on a back page of Amazon, viewed once every six months, with three reader reviews: one from me under another name, one from my dad who thinks I can do no wrong, and one from my mom who refused to read the book because of the language but still said it was “nice”. This book might fail. I accept that.
This book release isn’t the end of my writer’s journey, it’s a point somewhere near the beginning. In police terms, it’s stepping out of your patrol car after you’ve arrived on a violent, dangerous call. In military terms, it’s the moment you leave the wire for a patrol through enemy territory. It’s a personal decision to step into the unknown, expose yourself to (in this case) figurative danger and the risk of failure.
In the context of the lifelong trek toward success as a writer, this book release is one very small step. But it’s a step in the right direction. It’s a step I couldn’t have made without the support of family, friends, fellow veterans and the people at Tactical16 who chose to take a chance on me. And I am proud and grateful that I’ve gotten this far.
p.s. 23 years ago today I graduated from Marine Corps boot camp. Even though I didn’t do anything of importance in the Corps and have spent almost three times as long in the Army as I did in the Marines, I will ALWAYS be a Marine. I can’t think of a better date to release my first book.
Filed under: Afghanistan, Cops, Iraq, Writing | 9 Comments