Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Tetons

One of these days, it would behoove me to blog about my writing … Pound the drum a little about historical fiction, my upcoming work, Medieval topics, etc, etc. But I just completed my first week of seasonal work at Grand Teton National Park. And when one is faced with the Teton Range every day, it’s hard not to let it dominate your thought process, regardless of what it is you happen to be doing. Case in point, this is the view from my driveway (I’m fortunate enough to live with an old Marine Corps buddy near the park entrance):

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See what I mean? Even if it’s overcast, the view is still stunning. Observe:

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I’ve been to many places, but very few where the scenery is so consistently mind-boggling. It blows away the Front Range of Colorado (and I grew up looking at Pikes Peak). Mount Rainier is spectacular, too, but it can’t measure up to the Tetons. One can only imagine what Davey Jackson thought (while he and his fellow mountain men systematically decimated the beaver population) as he laid his trap lines, worked through the valley, and got to ogle the Teton Range. In any case, if you’ve never been to Grand Teton National Park, I recommend you do it sooner rather than later. And if you need another excuse to visit, Yellowstone is 40 miles or so up the road.

Why am I here, working in this magnificent place, in this the centennial year of our National Park system? I’m on one of the fire engines in the park. This is a good segue opportunity.

In my last post I wrote about how writing compared to my service in the USMC. Fire fighting and more specifically, wild land firefighting, is an even better comparison, though.┬áTalk about shared suffering building camaraderie …

I like to compare it to the infantry, but with very little of the silliness that comes with being in the infantry (and the added benefit of not getting shot at). There’s a chain of command, the work is physically demanding, the hours are long, and the work is very satisfying because it’s hard and not everyone can do it. There’s an element of danger, but not quite as intense as, oh, say, CQB in Fallujah or hitting an IED. Oh! And the pay is ridiculous … and by ridiculous, I mean you’re working your ass off for a pittance (unless you’re working a fire, in which case it’s pretty dang good). It’s an easy transition to make, comfortable. It’s tailor-made for prior-service types, especially those who were in combat arms. And I highly encourage anyone who spent some time in the military (my Lathrop Marines, I’m talking to you) to give it a shot. It’s a federal job and that means you’ll have to navigate the completely counterintuitive USA Jobs website. But, trust me. It’s worth the effort …

Alright, that’s enough about ‘writing is like’ comparisons … Next time, I’ll cover something more in line with my writing. Something about the era in which ‘Vendetta’ takes place … And thanks to all of those who have ordered, read, and reviewed ‘Vendetta!’ What’s that? You read it but forgot to review it? Ah … Do me a solid, and write me a quickie review on Amazon. Every review is a tremendous help …

Novel the Second is in the works and the tentative title is — wait for it — ‘End of Days.’ Things are going to be a little rough for Anchioni, Heton, and their fellow condottieri in this next installment. If all goes according to plan, it will be available next spring!

 

 

Writing is like _______

I’ve done lots of different things. Taught swim lessons. Taught horseback riding lessons. Tended bar. Waited tables. Did just enough roofing, electrical, and plumbing work to know I was never meant to do any of it (and am highly appreciative of those who do them well). Dug holes. Filled them in. Fought fire. Traveled all over the place. Was a personal trainer. Raced triathlons. Led Marines. A formidable portfolio of life experience, if I do say so myself …

I was a Marine longest, though, so I’m inevitably drawn to compare the overall experience to writing. How can one equate writing to service in uniform? For one thing, it’s difficult. Not in the sense of, “Crap, I’m deploying for seven months — again,” or, “Shit. I can’t believe I work for that jackwad. How in the hell did this idiot get promoted past the rank of lieutenant?” No, when I say difficult I mean there are plenty of internal struggles (which abound in the Marine Corps) to overcome. Self-doubt. Self-assessment. Self-critiquing. Unbelievable stress.

Along those lines, writing — just like being in the military — isn’t for everyone. Right? Sometimes I wonder. Hm … In any case, I think this is why it’s so enjoyable for me to be around other writers regardless of the genres they write (as mentioned in my PPWC 2016 post). There’s this sense of, ‘one team, one fight.’

A few military maxims translate well to struggling authors, too. The best military maxims are incredibly crude and don’t translate well to the average civilian’s sensibilities. But there are a few that make the cut …

Shared suffering builds camaraderie …

If it was easy, everyone could do it …

Improvise, adapt, overcome …

Pain is weakness leaving the body …

Alright, maybe not that one. Come to think of it, none of Murphy’s Combat Laws quite jive, either. For example, ‘Anything you do can get you killed in combat, including doing nothing.’ My personal favorite is, ‘A sucking chest wound is Nature’s way of telling you to slow down.’ ‘Tracers work both ways,’ is another fave …

And as I’m learning more and more, I’ve chosen to make a go of a profession — also very much like the military — that has a greater focus on intangible, vice tangible rewards (there aren’t very many company-grade Marine Corps officers in it for the money, that’s for damn sure). I think aspiring writers live for the all-too rare moments of immense satisfaction that come from nailing a draft. Or even a sentence. Creating an exquisite turn of phrase. Receiving a glowing review. But let’s face it. Book sales are nice, too.

Being a Marine was hard. Writing is hard, too. But I have no regrets … If it was easy, everyone could do it. Right?

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So Much for Consistency…

…because I’m the only person in the history of blogging, ever, to not write posts on a routine basis. Ha! Yeah, right. I digress …

What’s that you say? You’re in desperate need of a graphic designer for your book cover? Your current cover and business cards are a cross between cubism, chimpanzee finger-painting, and Socialist Realism (I’d almost pay money to see that)? It’s a good thing you came upon this blog post, then (even though you were probably searching for a brownie recipe). Check out UnderCover for all of your graphic design needs. KL Cooper’s work is spectacular. I had a hand in designing my cover for VENDETTA, and while it’s nifty in a minimalist way, it wasn’t quite what I had in mind. UnderCover is definitely going to up the ante for my second novel. Do yourself a favor and reach out to KL via Twitter: @UnderCoverKLC

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Sweet logo, isn’t it?