On The End Of A Long Dry Spell…

 

I admit it: I’ve been in a long dry spell the past few years. From time to time, it happens in a writer’s life. About all you can do is put on your big boy panties and soldier on through it.

 

So when my former agent and friend Nancy Yost sent me an email on May 12, 2011 and told me about an acquaintance of hers who was looking for a collaborator, I was open to talking about it. She hooked me up with Wayne McDaniel, a writer who lives on the west side in upper Manhattan, a few miles north of my old apartment in Chelsea.

 

Wayne and I began talking and emailing. He had a spec script he’d written that was based on the life of Alaska’s most famous serial killer, a twisted little eff-stick named Robert Hansen.

 

This guy was a genuine piece of work. He was a baker in Anchorage with a wife and kids. He was a deacon in the church. Every summer he’d put his wife and kids on a plane to the Lower 48, then he’d go kidnap a woman, fly her (in his illegally piloted Piper Cub) to a secluded spot in the wilderness, then turn her loose in the woods and literally hunt her like wild game (this is the sanitized version; the reality was much worse).

 

The script had been optioned, Wayne told me, but as so often happens, it had wallowed in the black hole of development hell until it was dead. His agent advised him to write a novelization of the script, sell the book, and thereby get the script back into play.

 

It was a good strategy, but Wayne was struggling with the novel and wanted to take on a collaborator.

 

We talked, made nice. I read the script; it was dynamite. I read what he had of the novel; I wanted to get involved.

 

So we played Let’s Make A Deal and went to work.

 

Some writers are wary of collaborations, but let me tell you, when they work, it’s magic. And that’s the way it was for us. This was, simply, the most successful collaboration and partnership I’ve ever had. Wayne and I have become close friends as well as literary partners and we’re seriously thinking about a second book.

 

And almost precisely three years after we first talked and emailed, the end result is nearly here. Resurrection Bay will be published on June 8, 2014 by Midnight Ink. Here’s the link to the book on Amazon.com, where you can pre-order it:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Resurrection-Bay-Wayne-McDaniel/dp/0738740659/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396491836&sr=1-2&keywords=resurrection+bay

 

It’s a hell of a book, if I do say so myself. I hope you’ll take a look and I hope you enjoy it.

 

Want to know the really weird part? Wayne and I have never met. Never even been in the same room together…

 

More about that, and the whole collaboration process, later.

On The Passing of Elmore Leonard…

 

On August 20th, we lost one of our heroes.

 

Elmore Leonard—87-years-old and at work on his 46th novel—died after suffering a stroke on July 29th.

 

Marilyn Stasio eulogized him on the front page of the New York Times. Writers, critics, reviewers, readers, and academicians throughout the world have paid tribute to his exquisite style, his elaborate and quirky plotting, the incredibly memorable characters he created, and the sheer firepower of everything he wrote. He will be remembered as one of the truly great writers of his time.

 

I have a different memory of Elmore Leonard, though.

 

It’s a memory from twenty-two years ago, in August of 1991. My first novel had been out for just a little over a year and my second was on its way. When my agent sold that first book in late 1988, I decided I owed some karmic payback, so I contacted some folks at the Tennessee Department of Corrections. I had to jump through some hoops, but eventually I became a volunteer teacher at the old Tennessee State Prison, which was more commonly known as “The Walls.” The place resembled a medieval fortress. It closed in 1992 and is now used as a movie set.

 

For four years, for three hours on Monday night, inmate writers and I gathered in the schoolhouse and workshopped our writing. In the beginning, I had the misguided notion that I had something to teach them. The reality was I learned a hell of a lot more from them than they did from me.

 

One Monday night, I announced to the group that I was cancelling class the following week. A couple of the guys asked why…

 

“Elmore Leonard’s coming to town for a signing at Davis-Kidd,” I said. “And there’s no way I’m going to miss that.”

 

You’d have thought I told them Jesus Christ was climbing down from the cross. There was a ruckus like I’d never seen among this usually sedate and almost intellectual group of guys.

 

“Get him here!” one of the guys yelled. “We can’t go to him!”

 

Point taken. So in one of life’s what the hell moments, I called Elmore Leonard’s publisher the next morning and got someone in publicity to take my call.

 

“Elmore Leonard writes about criminals,” I said. “How’d he like to meet the real thing?”

 

Twenty-four hours later, my phone rang. Elmore Leonard would love to visit the Tennessee State Penitentiary…

 

That Monday afternoon, I picked Mr. Leonard up at his hotel and drove to the prison. I was amazed at how soft-spoken, even unassuming, he was. There was no trace of ego in him, or bravado, or the macho sensibilities you’d expect from a guy who wrote about hard-assed, bad-assed criminals and got rich and famous doing it. He wore jeans, a blue dress shirt and a jacket. Just a regular guy…

 

And the guys in the writing workshop loved him. He spent the whole afternoon talking to them about the writing life and the writing business. He asked them about their work and listened to their stories. He treated them with respect and dignity. For one short, sunny afternoon in August, they weren’t inmates anymore; they were writers, swapping war stories with one of their own.

 

Later, I drove him to the Davis-Kidd Bookstore, where a huge crowd attended his book signing. After that, a group of us all went to dinner. I got to sit next to him and while I can’t remember in any detail what we actually talked about (it was twenty-two years ago), I remember it as one of the most pleasant conversations I’ve ever had with another writer.

 

Later, he wrote me a handwritten letter thanking me for the day and signed it “Dutch.” That letter and a photo of us all at the penitentiary are framed in my home office. They’re two of my most treasured mementos.

 

So that’s how I remember Elmore Leonard. Yeah, he was one helluva writer. But he was also a really nice guy.So long, Dutch. We miss you.Elmore Leonard at TSPElmore Leonard Letter

BY BLOOD WRITTEN Kindle Price Reduction

 

Amazon.com has just reduced the price of By Blood Written to 99 cents for the Kindle edition. If you’re looking for a smoking hot summer beach read, here’s where to go:

 

http://www.amazon.com/By-Blood-Written-ebook/dp/B000W913Q4/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1371659758&sr=8-1&keywords=By+Blood+Written+Steven+Womack

 

You can also read the first two chapters of By Blood Written by hitting the “Books” link at the top of this page…

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Writing (Or Creating Any Kind Of Art) When Life Gets In The Way

 

I’m sitting in my home office now, trying to write my first blog entry since February. That’s the problem with blogging; you’re supposed to do it regularly. I’m almost embarrassed that it’s taken me so long to write another post.

 

But let me describe my life to you right now. As I sit upstairs at my desk, I can hear—even with the door closed—the gigantic fans downstairs that are trying to dry the floors out in our house. About a month ago, the icemaker quit working on our old Amana 27 side-by-side. Days later—which was the first chance I got—I called the appliance repair people and the customer service guy told me icemaker repairs can get expensive. Could be as much as $400.00, he said.

 

Screw that, I thought. No way I’ve got that much extra cash lying around. I’ll run to the Kroger and buy a bag of ice. Which is precisely what I did, every few days for the next month.

 

Then I finally pulled it together to call the air-conditioning maintenance guys. Our system hasn’t been serviced in two years. As part of the service, the technician went into the crawlspace to examine the ductwork…

 

Which is where he found the corroded copper line that was spraying out about six feet in a pinhole leak. Quick, call the plumber, who came and repaired the leak, for $256.00, on top of the $150.00 for the HVAC inspection. While he was down there, he noticed a few feet over that the subflooring was all soaking wet. He did the measurements, plotted the huge wet spot, then came into the house, paced it off, and discovered that this huge wet spot of subflooring was centered… (okay, drum roll, wait for it).

 

Right under the refrigerator. The one with the busted icemaker…

 

“This one’s bad. I’d call your insurance company.”

 

Another phone call, another appointment, another guy crawling under the house and coming up with bad news.

 

“We can have a crew here Monday,” he said. “We’ll start by ripping up the floors, bringing in the air movers (I guess they call them “air movers” because it sounds more benign than incredibly huge industrial-strength fans that make you think you’re standing next to a Lufthansa 747 on takeoff), and the dehumidifiers. They’ll run for about three days around the clock. If the noise makes it impossible to sleep, you can turn ‘em off, but it’ll just take longer to dry it out. Then we’ll send in the flooring guys to lay the new floor, the carpenters to redo all the trim and mould, the painters to paint it, the cleaning crew to clean up, and then the punch-list guy to make sure it’s okay.”

 

“Then,” he added, “you can write the check.”

 

Our dining room has been converted into my wife’s home office, so the first thing was to take all that down (which really put everyone in a good mood) and then the kitchen had to be cleared out.

 

A day later, the wrecking crew came and ripped up the floors, then sprayed mildewcide over the wet subflooring, which set off my wife’s asthma. Then they fired up these air movers and went home to dinner.

 

Hours later, to get out of the house, my wife and I take a walk in the park. Twenty minutes into the walk, my cell phone goes off. It’s a text message from the ex-wife. Our nine-year-old is having heart palpitations, so they’re on their way to the emergency room…

 

Hours later—at two in the morning—I finally got home from the E.R., fixed a scotch and soda and took it to bed. I berated myself for not getting this blog entry done earlier, not to mention the new book proposal my agent liked. She wants a detailed synopsis and the first three chapters.

 

Oh, and there’s the book manuscript that my partner Wayne McDaniel and I turned into the agent four months ago. Haven’t heard a word on that one.

 

Then there are those three novels I just got the rights reversion on from St. Martin’s Press. Gotta get those scanned and cleaned up for republishing under the Spearhead Press imprint. Then there’s the retired homicide investigator who wants to partner up on a crime novel.

 

Oh, and there’s the local director whose feature script I offered to read.

 

On and on and on. So the question becomes: is life getting in the way of writing, or is it the other way around?

 

No doubt, to be continued…

On Plot Holes And Other Such Nonsense…

 
I recently finished a wonderfully successful collaboration on a novel with Wayne McDaniel, a very gifted screenwriter who lives in New York City. At some point, I want to write about how our project—a novelization of his screenplay Resurrection Bay—came about, but for now I want to give some thought to a writing issue that came up when we were in the very last part of the rewriting process.

 

There’s a character in Resurrection Bay who’s in the military and holds the rank of Captain. In a conversation with another character, our Captain mentions that she graduated from Officer Candidate School three years earlier…

 

Wait, I thought. Three years? That seems awfully quick to make Captain. Better check that out. So I jumped on a search engine and typed: How long does it take to make Captain in the Army?

 

Half a second later, I escaped the embarrassment of another story screw-up. Generally, it takes at least four years to make Captain once you’re out of O.C.S. And, one website noted, promotion to Captain at the end of four years is often used as an enticement to reenlist.

 

So I went back to the manuscript, made a minor copyedit, and dodged a bullet. It’s always embarrassing to make those kinds of mistakes in fiction. It reminded me of the time when I taught a writing workshop at the Tennessee State Prison here in Nashville. As part of the group, I read from my own work. Since I write crime fiction, I brought a few pages from my latest work-in-progress. I read a scene where a character pulls out a revolver, flicks off the safety, and fires.

 

Seconds later, a literal wave of laughter ran through the room. These guys were howling. Red-faced, I looked up: “What?” Finally, one of the guys regained enough control of himself to explain to me that revolvers don’t have safeties.

 

Embarrassing, yes, but in the great scheme of things, a relatively minor and easily fixable screw-up. But what about major screw-ups: plot holes big enough to drive a tank through, historical mistakes that are so massive they ought to sink the whole story, even complete b.s./nonsense?

 

Well, one might offer, this is fiction. By definition, it’s made up. Someone once asked me what I do for a living and I answered that I’m a professional liar. I make stuff up that doesn’t exist and isn’t true, and I try to do it well enough that for a brief period of time, you as the reader or viewer will buy into it.

 

It’s why the great Larry Block entitled one of the best books I’ve ever read about writing Telling Lies For Fun And Profit.

 

That’s really the secret, isn’t it? Doing it so well that you don’t get caught and make a buck in the process…

 

As proof, let me offer up three stories—all told in the format of the motion picture—that demonstrate beautifully how one can lie one’s arse off and get away with it. Each of these three movies was very successful; even to some extent, classics. And yet each one of them is founded on a plot hole that is so glaring, so egregious, that you wonder how the writers managed to get away with it.

 

And yet they did…

 

First off, let’s look at Casablanca. Released in 1942, this film is clearly a classic, so much so that on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest films ever made, Casablanca is number two, just behind Citizen Kane. Written by the Epstein Brothers—Julius and Phillip—and Howard Koch, Casablanca is a love story set in World War II and centers around the romance of Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund, two tragic lovers who lose each other and then find each other once again in the chaos and terror of dodging the evil Nazis.

 

The central story device in this movie is what Alfred Hitchcock called a McGuffin. A McGuffin is something in the story that everyone seems to be after, that all the action revolves around, and yet in the end turns out to be not so important after all.

 

In Casablanca, the McGuffin is the Letters of Transit. Everyone’s after the Letters of Transit because they guarantee you, as a war refugee, free and safe passage to America. As Rick says, “As long as I’ve got these letters, I’ll never be lonely.”

 

And, as the Peter Lorre character, Ugarte—who stole the Letters of Transit in the first place—explains, the Letters of Transit are signed by General de Gaulle. They cannot be rescinded, cannot even be questioned. If you’ve got those letters, then it’s a universal Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card. They guarantee you passage through the German lines, and in the end, Victor and Ilsa get away because they have those letters. As Rick says, at last the Germans are only a minor annoyance.

 

Great, fine, a wonderful movie, but wait!

 

Huh? Run that by me again… How does the premise of Casablanca stack up against historical reality?

 

In the Spring of 1940, the war had been going on for about six months. The winter of 1939-1940 was a time of relative inactivity, a time that came to be known as the Sitzkreig. Then the Germans attacked all across a broad western front and by June, the French folded. They surrendered, the war came to a brief halt, and the Nazis occupied much of the north of France, while in the south, the puppet Vichy government took over.

 

At the time of surrender, all French soldiers were ordered to lay down their weapons and capitulate. Virtually all of them did, with one notable exception: General de Gaulle. Charles de Gaulle defied orders, rejected the armistice, and escaped to Britain, where he spent the rest of the war making anti-Nazi propaganda broadcasts and leading the Free French resistance.

 

So in the eyes of the French government and the German Reich, what was General Charles de Gaulle?

 

The answer is simple: General de Gaulle was a traitor. He was a wanted man, a criminal with a very large price on his head.

 

So, in the end, the entire premise of Casablanca is nonsense. Not only would Letters of Transit signed by General de Gaulle not get you through a Nazi checkpoint, they would be a virtual death sentence. If Casablanca adhered to historical reality, the best thing Victor and Ilsa could have done with the Letters of Transit was pull out their cigarette lighters and set fire to them. Quickly…

 

And yet, the movie works. We’re sucked in, completely. Why? Because the guys that wrote the script were the best.

 

Let’s look at another great film, Thelma and Louise. The script, written by Callie Khouri, won her an Oscar for Best Screenplay in 1992. I love this film and I teach it regularly here at The Watkins Film School. But there’s something about the film that’s never made sense to me.

 

Thelma and Louise are both women who are shackled by life, and especially by the men around them. The younger Thelma’s husband, Darryl, is an abusive, sexist, mean-spirited regional manager for a car dealer. He’s also a polyester-wearing womanizer. Louise, who is in a tortured relationship with her boyfriend, struggles to make ends meet slinging hash in a cheap diner.

 

They decide they need a weekend away from it all and take off. On their journey, the playful, frisky Thelma begs Louise to stop at a roadside honky-tonk for a drink. Louise is reluctant, but finally accepts Thelma’s Call To Adventure (to get all Joseph Campbelly on you). In the dingy redneck saloon, they meet Harlan, a seemingly cheerful redneck barfly who’s a classic Shapeshifter (again with the Joseph Campbell). Thelma gets drunk and dances with Harlan, who spins her around until she gets dizzy.

 

He offers to take her out to the parking lot for a breath of fresh air. Once outside, he starts putting the moves on Thelma, and when she resists, the scene gets ugly. He slaps Thelma around, brutalizes her, and is just about to rape her when Louise appears behind them, pistol in hand.

 

She rescues Thelma and it looks like Harlan’s going to back down. But then Harlan cops an attitude with her, spouts out a few vulgar lines of dialogue, and Louise blows him away. Thelma and Louise jump in the car and take off, beginning their road trip/journey to escape that leads ultimately to an event that’s either their destruction or their ultimate liberation, depending on your interpretation (Callie Khouri has always insisted that it was the latter).

 

Great! Wonderful movie! Stack up those awards.

 

But wait… Something’s bugging me here. Let’s step back and look at this.

 

When Louise walks outside looking for Thelma, what does she see? She sees her best friend bent over the back of a car with this redneck jerk beating the crap out of her. She’s beaten, bruised, sobbing hysterically, her clothes ripped and torn. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out.

 

So Louise pulls a pistol and breaks up the assault. She delivers to Harlan what can only be described as a stern lecture on how to treat women, and then she backs off, ready to get in the car and go.

 

But Harlan (who is the living embodiment of the old Southern saying he needed killing) can’t let it go. He starts verbally abusing Louise and Thelma again, in a vulgar fashion that doesn’t bear repeating here. He even makes what could easily be seen as a threatening gesture toward them. So Louise shoots him.

 

If Thelma and Louise had run back into the bar, screamed for help, called 911, and then explained to the police what had actually happened (with all the other witnesses who would have testified to Harlan’s reputation as a complete asshole), the shooting would almost certainly be dismissed as self-defense. All the police had to do was take one look at Thelma and the two would be merrily on their way, with Louise branded a hero.

 

Okay, this would have made for one short movie, and Callie could have forgotten that whole Oscar thing. So it turned out for the best. That doesn’t excuse the fact, though, that the premise of Thelma and Louise has a pretty basic flaw.

 

Guess what? It doesn’t matter. Superb writing and incredible filmmaking gets us past that. Almost everyone I’ve ever talked to about this movie didn’t even notice.

 

Finally, here’s a movie that by almost anyone’s standards is not a classic: Con Air. Written by Scott Rosenberg (check out his www.IMDB.com entry), Con Air is a commercially successful but incredibly awful guilty pleasure. It’s big-budget, big-star, cast-of-thousands Hollywood filmmaking at its silliest, with Nicholas Cage delivering the single worst Southern accent ever put on screen in the entire history of cinema (On any othah day, that mite seem stray-ange…).

 

Con Air is the story of Cameron Poe, a decorated war hero who returns to rural Alabama with a chest full of medals. His pregnant wife, Tricia (Poe’s Hummin’bird), waits tables in a grungy redneck bar. Poe surprises her and they have a wonderful Kodak moment, which is interrupted by a table of obnoxious, drunk rednecks. Tricia begs Poe not to mop the floor with them, and he stands down.

 

Later, in a dark parking lot on a rainy night, the three drunks jump Cameron again. He defends his wife and himself, running two of the drunk rednecks off. But the third falls, bumps his head, and dies.

 

At Poe’s trial, the Alabama state judge pronounces that since Poe is a trained Army Ranger and his hands are deadly weapons, he is egregiously guilty of murder. The judge sentences him and sends him away for years. Poe winds up in a federal prison in California…

 

This is Act I of Con Air, and it’s here that the premise of the movie goes completely off the rails.

 

For one thing, if you’re a decorated Army Ranger war hero coming home to Alabama, for God’s sake, and you and your beautiful blonde, pregnant wife are assaulted in a parking lot by a group of drunk rednecks who outnumber you three-to-one, and you kill one of them in the process, you’re not going to be arrested for murder.

 

No, they’re going to put up a statue of you in the town square, give you another medal, and make you the local legend. Hell, they’ll be naming their kids after you.

 

Second, and this one is a relatively minor plot hole in an otherwise bullet-riddled plot, a state judge in Alabama cannot sentence you to a Federal prison in California. It just doesn’t work that way.

 

And guess what? Doesn’t matter. I still love the movie and have watched it so many times I can speak the lines back to the screen.

 

So you see, a solid, airtight plot isn’t necessary for a story to work. The only thing you have to do is write it so well that your reader or audience doesn’t notice until after the movie’s over or they’ve read the last page. By then, it’s too late.
 
Still, I’m glad I got that whole “how many years does it take to make Captain?” thing right.

 

On Whole New Worlds…

 

A long time ago, I decided I wanted to spend my life writing novels. Back then, if you wanted to be a novelist, you wrote a book—all of it, on spec—and then you went to Writer’s Digest or The Literary Marketplace and you studied the literary agents listings. Then you wrote query letters. You slaved, agonized, over how to pitch your book and yourself in the snappiest way possible, with the most firepower, in one page.

 

Back in the Seventies, it was customary to query only one agent at a time. That agent—being incredibly busy and having no idea who the hell you were—might or might not respond.

 

In any case, it took weeks, if not months. And you, the aspiring novelist, were expected to wait patiently for an answer to your blind query.

 

Very often, you never got one. So after one or two follow-up letters, which were also rarely answered, you went to the next agent on your list. And the waiting game all over again. Rinse and repeat…

 

If you were lucky—really lucky—you might find three or four agents who were willing to read your manuscript over the course of a year. Of those three or four, maybe one or two might actually give you a response worth reading. Mostly, it was one form rejection after another. Oh, and you could always submit material “over the transom,” which meant blindly sending manuscripts to editors at New York houses. What no one told you was that over that transom, there was a chute that led directly to the dumpster…

 

Meanwhile, you kept writing. You worked on your next book, constantly polishing your chops. If you were really lucky, you found a day job where you could apply your writing skills. I was lucky for awhile, as a newspaper reporter for a small daily in New Orleans, then later a staff writer for United Press International, and then writing press releases and catalog copy for a publisher in New York.

 

All that, though, was just preparation for the big time: publication—preferably in hardcover—by a major New York house…

 

A long time later—sometimes years—you finally gave up and shoved the manuscript box into a closet.

 

For me, this was an exercise in futility and frustration that went on for almost two decades. Despite the opportunity, I never learned patience.

 

I considered self-publishing, but back then self-publishing—aka “vanity press”—commanded very little respect. You paid a bunch of money to a company who printed your books, and did little else. No bookstore would take them; no respectable publication would review them. The books languished and you were forever slotted as a loser who couldn’t get published by a legitimate, real, publisher.

 

I thought of starting my own publishing firm. I even came up with a name: Spearhead Press. I liked the name—a spearhead, after all, was an attack. And that’s what I wanted to do, an end-run attack on a publishing industry that had refused to let me in.

 

That took money, though. Tons of it. I’d have to pay a typesetter, a layout artist, a printer. And I’d need to have a place to store the books, a way to distribute them. Like everyone in the day, I started by reading Dan Poynter. Somewhere in a box in the garage, I still have my battered, dog-eared, highlighted old copy of his self-publishing manual.

 

In the end, it was just too daunting. I wanted to write books, not publish them. So instead of starting my own publishing house, I went to work for one, and spent the next eight years as a typesetter and layout artist for a couple of large publishing houses.

 

As I wrote on the homepage of my website, I started my first novel when I was eighteen. A short couple of decades later, I finally sold one. In between I wrote five completed, unpublished novels, and had about a dozen more false starts. On the other hand, I’d published literally hundreds of articles, essays, reviews, and features. Anything to keep my hand in while I endlessly trolled for that elusive book deal.

 

What finally kicked the door open for me was not one of the hundreds of queries I wasted postage on over the decades. It was what breaks down all doors in the professional and business world: I met someone. I had a friend who knew a friend who knew a literary agent, who was willing to make an introduction. I met the agent; we hit it off. He liked my book, and this time there was a face to put with the name. He sent the book out. It didn’t sell.

 

I panicked, afraid he would drop me. I went back to one of my five unpublished novels, a book that had been turned down by twenty-two publishers and been declared by one editor “absolutely unpublishable.” I did a down-and-dirty rewrite and gave it to the agent.

 

Six weeks later, it sold, and became the only first mystery on the 1990 New York Times Notable Book List.

 

Go figure.

 

Fast forward a couple more decades. The business has gone through one evolution/revolution/upheaval after another. After a dozen years or so of supporting myself as a full-time novelist/screenwriter/freelancer/fill-in-the-blank, it all came to an end when the mass market paperback world collapsed. My numbers (and income) went down; I left my long-time publisher, convinced I could do better somewhere else.

 

I was wrong.

 

To survive, I turned to teaching full-time and discovered that I liked teaching and was actually pretty good at it. My writing career suffered, though. I soldiered on anyway, still hoping.

 

A little over a year ago, I was offered the chance to collaborate with someone, a screenwriter in New York who was trying to finish a novelization of a screenplay. We partnered up and finished the book. It’s in New York now, looking for a home (more on that later).

 

At the same time I’m trying to revive my once-promising writing career, the publishing industry has continued remaking itself, evolving in ways no one could ever have anticipated beyond a few visionaries.

 

Suddenly, over the period of a few short years, the game’s turned upside down. Now you don’t need a ton of money to become a publisher. You can publish digitally, distribute electronically. Amazon.com, Smashwords, Kobo… the list goes on and grows by the day.

 

So I have this stack of unpublished novels and several published novels that have are out-of-print. I’m a longtime member of Novelists, Inc. (the best writers’ organization on the planet, by the way), and I read every day on the NINCLink about writers bringing their work back into print on their own.

 

Only now it’s not “vanity” publishing. It goes by different names now (my favorites being “boutique” and “studio” publishing). More than anything else, though, it’s a business. It’s about reaching readers, selling books. Making a living and becoming an empowered writer…

 

So I started thinking, again, of Spearhead Press.

 

And several months ago, I went to work. I decided, however, that I was too emotionally invested in my own stuff to launch an imprint with one of my books. My wife, Shalynn Ford Womack, spent years as a freelance newspaper columnist. She had hundreds of columns published.

 

So why not an anthology of her work, I thought? She’d always wanted to publish a collection of her articles and essays, but since she wasn’t Erma Bombeck or Anna Quindlen, that proved to be a tough do.

 

So, I—we—took the leap.

 

I bought the domain name and began learning how to prepare books for digital publication. I’d spent years typesetting books and had designed a few websites already, as well as taken a course in web design. So I had a leg up on the technical aspects…

 

The investment, so far, has been almost all sweat equity. The total outlay for the creation of Spearhead Press has been less than a couple of hundred dollars. The hours involved?

 

Let’s not go there.

 

Instead of taking years querying literary agents and searching for editorial interest, we went straight to work. Less than sixty days from the time we started work on the project—called Ice On The Wing: Essays on Life and Other Difficult Situations—we launched it through Kindle Direct.

 

The CreateSpace trade paperback edition went up a few weeks after that. We did most of the work over the Christmas holiday, while I was on break from my teaching job…

 

The epublishing revolution has, without a doubt, brought about the biggest change in writing and publishing since Guttenberg invented the printing press. And it’s just beginning. No one really knows where this is going to take us, or what it’s going to mean for writers, readers, and publishers in the future.

 

One thing’s for sure: there’s never been a more exciting time to be a writer. It’s never been easier to get published.

 

Is it any easier to reach readers or make a living at it?

 

We’ll see…

 

SW

 

p.s. If you’d like to take a look at Shalynn’s book, it’s up on Amazon.com right now.

 

Thanks. More later…

Edgar and Shamus Award-Winning Author