Saturday, November 16, 2013

Springsteen Sang a Song About Me

...back in about 1984.

Yeah, you  remember Born in the USA. Honestly, not even close to my favorite Springsteen album (does that word date me? Yup). But do you remember the song from that album, "I'm Goin' Down"? It's the one with the intellectual chorus...

I'm going down, down, down, down
I'm going down, down, down, down
I'm going down, down, down, down
I'm going down, down, down, down

Now, I know it sounds like I'm bagging on the Boss, but I'm not. Anyone who knows me also knows that I'm a life-long Springsteen fan. Moreover, it's the songwriting that I admire most (though he is a hugely underrated guitarist, too).

But what's with these lyrics? Well, here's the part of this blog post where we make a massive transition...ready?

Amazon ranks authors in various categories, based upon book sales. Over the last year, I've been falling slowly but steadily. In fact, here's a visual representation, courtesy of Amazon:

Hard to read? Maybe, but the trend should be clear. Just in case it isn't, though...



Even easier to see now, huh?

I'm going down, down, down, down...

So this has been bothering me for a while. I've tried (and will continue to try) different promotions to raise my profile (and sales), and honestly, I don't know if they've worked or not. You can see upticks and down slides along that graph, so is that a result of my efforts, or just the way of the buying public?

Who knows?

Anyway, like I said, I let myself get a little bothered by this downward trend. I looked at it as a negative event, one that somehow defined me as a writer. Something like "Oh, my ranking is going down. I must suck." Well, maybe not that fragile, but you get the idea.

Then (and I have my wife to thank for this, whether she realizes it or not) I stumbled across the real meaning of this graph and the statistics behind it. I discovered the truly important facts surrounding it. So here are the top ten facts I gleaned (and in honor of the Boss quote at the beginning of this post, we will count them down).

10. Graphs suck.

9. No, really. Graphs suck. They should be outlawed, especially if they make you feel bad. Even if they are, like, factual and stuff.   

8.  Wait a minute. To be on that graph, I have to have written a book. I wrote a book! Yes! [victorious fist pump]

7. Wait another minute. I wrote more than one book.  Yay me!

6. Hold on now. This is getting crazy, but....that graph means SOMEONE BOUGHT ONE OF MY BOOKS! That's right, someone paid money to read something I wrote. Sha-zam!

5. Last year, I was (albeit briefly) the #1 Police Procedural author on all of Amazon. Michael Connelly was #2. Uh....wow! (Michael Connelly is still #5. Good for him. He deserves to be.)

4. Amazon sells more books than anyone else in the world, so #1 on Amazon really means...#1 in the world. That means that (albeit briefly), I was the #1 Police Procedural author in the world. Uh...speechless.

3. I'm still #99 on Amazon (in the world!), which is pretty damn cool.

2. People are still buying, reading, and reviewing my books, and I'm still writing them, no matter what my number is on that graph.

1. I write because I'm a writer, and I love it. Everything else is gravy.

That last one is really the lynch pin of my little wife-induced epiphany. It doesn't mean I don't care about sales or ranking or reaching readers. Of course I do. But it does draw into focus what my purpose really is. My purpose is to write, because that is what I do. I strive to improve my craft, to tell another story and another after that, to connect with a reader, all because I am a writer.

Lastly, I think this entire thought process reinforced in me the importance of recognizing the truly good things you have in your life rather than lamenting what may be missing or imperfect. I mean, how many people want to write but never put pen to paper fingers to keyboard? I've been lucky to have realized my dream, and to be living it.

So this is what I've learned, though I imagine many of you already knew it. Sorry to be late to the party, but here's what I bring:

Enjoy your success...but don't let others define it for you.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Teaching...or Fellowship?

As I write this, I am sitting in a classroom with a half dozen other writers. One is T. Dawn Richard, who is talking right now. She's discussing story structure and asking the other five writers to write down the opening image of their book.

In an hour or so, we'll tag team the subject of character. And so it will go, all day long.

Wait. Those who can't do...teach?

I've never believed that line, actually. Sometimes the best coaches weren't superstar players but mid-level grinders who made the pros because they understood the game. Sometimes people like to teach something because it is something they are good at and are passionate about.

That's how I feel about teaching writing.

There's today's one-day intensive that I'm sure Dawn and I will teach again. And then there's the six week workshop I'm teaching at Auntie's Bookstore.

But am I really teaching?

On a surface level, sure. I'm teaching and sharing craft, technique, and passion. No question.

But it really is more about fellowship. It's about learning from each other. I am constantly astounded at passages that a supposedly "new" writer reads aloud or sends as part of an exercise. The raw talent and passion, the incredible turn of phrase, the obvious love for language...it is inspiring.

Life is full of exchanges. We give our employer time or product, and that employer gives us money. We give the grocer money, he gives us food. We give the lawyer money, she gives us a legal service. Exchanges. Sometimes we feel like we got a fair deal, other times maybe it was unequal.

Teaching is an exchange, too. You'd think that the balance would be heavily tilted in favor of the student, and maybe in some cases it is. But for me, I discovered long ago that the balance is really very much tilted in the favor of the instructor. I learn from teaching, I learn from the students, and the students are inspiring. Their success becomes, emotionally at least, my success.

It isn't just teaching writing. I've taught in my previous career in law enforcement. I coach youth hockey. And in both of those endeavors, the experience is very much the same -- you give everything you can to the act of teaching, but no matter how much you give, it seems as if more comes back to you.

My wife teaches middle school, which is exhausting. But I sometimes think her exhaustion also stems from the exhilaration of this kind of success with her students.

We are all on a writing journey. This blog is about a writer's journey, not a teacher's journey. But teaching the craft of writing makes me a better writer. Sharing time with other writers brings fellowship, which I believe makes a writer's life richer...which makes you a better writer.

And frankly, I've got debts to pay, to writers who have helped me that I can never pay back. So I pay it forward, hopefully with interest.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Who's So-and-So Based On?" : Using Real People as Character Inspirations

Writers steal. That’s a simple, constant truth.

Okay, maybe “steal” is a strong word. “Borrow” may be more accurate. Or better yet, let’s say writers draw on everything in their experience in order to create fiction.

When I say they draw on everything, I do mean everything. Every experience, every place, everything we ever saw or heard of is fair game. That means people too.

Whenever a writer creates a character there is always the suspicion that somehow he or she is based upon someone the writer knows or knew. If the writer is telling a story closely related to his own career, such as a police officer writing mysteries or police procedurals, for example, the suspicion is even greater.

It doesn’t help that one of the most oft given pieces of advice is “write what you know.” This isn’t bad advice. If you write what you know, your stories will have an air of authenticity to them. While authenticity alone won’t make a bad story good, it can make a good story better. It also puts the writer in a comfort zone in which he operates from a position of confidence. Confidence is always an important element in producing good work.

But the suspicion remains. Was character X based upon so and so?

The answer is always yes.

Now before anyone points a finger and says “A-ha! I knew it!” or files a lawsuit, let me clarify. It is virtually impossible for a writer to create a character out of whole cloth. Just like there are no new stories under the sun, there are no new characters. Or at least character traits. Any little trait that a reader discovers his new character has probably has a basis can someone he knew or at least heard of. Maybe it was a coworker or someone he saw at the park or on TV. It’s entirely possible that the writer isn’t even aware of where that trait originated. It might occur to him as a stroke of brilliance. “Hey! What if this guy calls everybody ’Chuckles’?” The fact that the writer saw this in the movie nine years ago might be the core inspiration. Truth be told, it might not even be something he remembers, but it’s there nonetheless.

I don’t mean to say that whole character traits come from subliminal memories. Some of them are very purposeful. But just because a particular character shares a particular trait with a real person that the writer knows doesn’t mean that character is based on that person. It could mean that particular trait was stolen… err, borrowed… err, drawn from the writers experience with that real person. In all likelihood, the trait will be modified and heavily amplified when it is applied to the fictional character. After all, this is fiction and requires greater drama than real life.

I’m speaking strictly for myself, although I suspect many or even most writers have a similar experience. Writing mysteries and police procedurals novels while simultaneously working as a police officer and drawing on those experiences to create more compelling and authentic fiction has certainly made people wonder if I’ve based characters on real people.

Of course I have.

But as I explained above, I have drawn little pieces from here and there. A habit from this person, a snarky phrase from that one, some small piece of nobility from another. I’ve drawn from people I’ve worked closely with, people I’ve come across briefly, and cops I’ve seen on TV and movies. I’ve drawn from situations I’ve encountered and some I’ve only heard about. Some of it has been purposeful and I’m sure some of that has seeped in through my subconscious.

That’s what writers do.

So for those people who wonder who the real Lieutenant Alan Hart is… I’ll never tell.

[grin].

Actually, while I did have a particular person in mind when I first began writing about that character, he quickly took on a life of his own. By the end of the first book and certainly by the time of the second, Hart became an amalgam of every weasel and every bureaucrat I’d ever met since grade school.

And what about Katie MacLeod? Did I have someone in mind when I penned her?

Of course. She actually started life as two different cops but I eventually combined both characters and their respective story arcs into one. By the time I did that, Katie was already herself. As the series has gone on, she has outgrown her inspiration, taken on traits from new inspirations, and most of all, she has grown and developed in her own right.

All of this is to say that while characters may have some source of inspiration or may bear some single point of resemblance to a real person, the writer’s real goal is to bring that fictional character alive. For the character to stand on his or her own two feet and be completely independent. That’s really when the magic starts happening. Everything else, to quote a little Breaking Bad, is a precursor.

Having said all of that, I come to Thomas Chisolm, the protagonist in my new novella, Chisolm’s Debt. Chisolm was originally based on a veteran cop I know named Tom Chapman. Tom was and is a veritable legend at the Spokane Police Department. Like Chisolm, he served in Vietnam as a Green Beret, was a veteran presence on patrol for years, has a great sense of humor, and is a straight talker. He even has the same scar. In fact, you could easily say that Thomas Chisolm was based on Tom Chapman, because he was. I took all of those elements that I admired in Tom and gave them to Chisolm.

Then a funny thing happened. Chisolm took on a life of his own. He faced his own demons, dealt with his own problems, and became a very different person than who Tom Chapman became. Tom, retired now for several years, is undoubtedly happier than Chisolm. For starters, he’s married, and Chisolm isn’t. He and Chisolm have taken the divergent paths in this world… or actually in their respective worlds. And while the basis for Chisolm had the far too many ingredients from the real Tom for me not to see some Chapman sometimes when I look at the Chisolm, Thomas Chisolm has emerged from the very real shadow that his inspiration casts. The truth is, when I look at Chisolm, I see him… most of the time.

Even so, as an homage to the man to inspired the character, I used a photograph of Tom Chapman on the cover of Chisolm’s Debt. I figured it was only fair, since he never asked for anything. I went to him before Under a Raging Moon was published and confessed that I’d based a character closely on him, and asked if he was all right with that. I said I could revise the character if he wanted (although that would have been less than ideal). Tom was flattered and graciously gave me the thumbs up. He was also intelligent enough to get the difference between reality and fiction and to know that this character would travel his own path.

And he has.

Anyway, that is one piece of the writing life. This is where some characters come from, and where pieces of all of them come from.

Oh, I almost forgot. There’s part of the writer in every single one of those characters, too. But that’s for another post.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"Fear is the Mind Killer."

[Note: I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because I wasn't confident I'd catch all my own miss-steaks].

If you recognize the quote in the subject line, then you've likely read Frank Herbert's novel, Dune. It's a classic science fiction piece that examines politics (of the Machiavellian variety), economics, immigration, race relations, philosophy, family, love...well, pretty much life in general. It was made into a not-so-great movie in the 1980s, and a better mini-series in the 2000s, but as is always the case, the book is the best version.

The quote refers to controlling your emotions, particularly fear. The sentiment is that it is hard to think clearly and perform if you let fear take control.

How does that apply to writers? Well, I think it can easily refer to confidence.

Everyone performs well when confident. Athletes are a perfect example of this. A loose, confident athlete will unfailingly get better results than a tight, unsure or worried athlete. Same with musicians. Same with writers.

Same with everybody, really.

So what makes us confident?

Past performance certainly helps, right? If you've had something published, been well reviewed, or had good sales, that has to help. For myself, I've published thirteen novels so far, plus a textbook. That's through large publishers, small publishers, and publishing independently. I've got two more coming out within a couple of months. Not bad. I've also had stories in thirteen different anthologies, plus three collections of my own. That's over 50 short stories in a variety of venues. Three of those were finalists for the Derringer Award. Also not bad.

My work now appears in print, e-book, and audio book form. I've sold almost 81,000 e-books since I started in that format. At one point, I was ranked as the #1 Police Procedural author on Amazon, and my first River City novel, Under A Raging Moon, was ranked #1 in that same category.

Cool, huh? And reason to be confident, no?

Ah, but just like an athlete, maybe you're only as good as your last game. As of yesterday, I'm ranked as #72 in the Police Procedural category on Amazon. Under a Raging Moon is no longer in the Top 100.

A few days ago, I was sitting in a locker room full of hockey players and someone asked me if it was true that I'd retired from law enforcement. I said yes. Amidst the congratulations, someone else gasped in surprise, then blurted, "You don't expect to make a living by writing, do you?"

Ouch.

Should things like falling rankings and fewer sales and Doubting Thomases in hockey skates affect confidence?

Nope.

Do they?

Yep. Sometimes they do.

The thing is, I think confidence is fluid, like a lot of things. Sometimes it runs high, sometimes it flags. It is dependent on so many things, from how well a draft of a new work is received by my #1 reader or my #1 critique partner to things that have nothing to do with writing, like whether or not I've lost any weight since starting to count calories. Confidence is fluid, and tricky. And when you've left a stable job to write full time and the importance of being successful is jacked way up, confidence becomes more important, and trickier.

Do you think Stephen King worries about how well his upcoming release, Doctor Sleep, will do? Will people say it's great, or will they say he's past his prime? Closer to home, do you think Jess Walter wonders about these things?

I think they probably do, at least to a degree. And like each of us, they find ways to overcome that doubt and to build that confidence.

Because this is a blog about my writing journey, I'm sharing with you what I've noticed about confidence. Specifically about mine. I believe in my work, or I wouldn't have started this journey, or been so open about it. But like every writer (and every other person, I assume), there are times when my confidence wanes just a little, and I have to take a step back and examine things again. I have to ask myself what I'm doing, and why. I have to ask myself if it's something I'm good at.

Ultimately, I always come away from these moments of reflection with renewed confidence and renewed enthusiasm. More than that, though, I remember something I heard a long time ago from an established writer, now deceased. It's as true now as it was when I first read it in 1987.

"Writers write."

What's that mean? To me, it means that writers write because we are writers. Like a musician who picks up a guitar or a carpenter who picks up a hammer, writers are drawn to this craft because it is who we are. A musician may make a dozen CDs, play in front of thousands, win Grammys and make millions, or s/he may play in the living room or at the campfire for family and friends, or even alone in an empty room...but the musician plays because s/he is a musician.

That's why writers write. That's why I write. Because I am a writer. So if I sell ten thousand books in a month or ten, I will write. Because that's one this I am very confident of -- I am, and will always be, a writer.

How about you? How do you feel about confidence, whether in writing or in life?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Back Home from the Homeland

I am back to work after a four week trip to Italy.

Yes, you heard me correctly. The long planned, finally realized trip to the homeland of Italia is now officially over [cue sad music, preferably violin or accordion]. If this was a blog about travel experiences, I could easily fill a month's worth of posts. But since this is a blog about my writing journey, the real question is -- what did this trip have to do with writing?

Everything.

First off, it was largely funded by writing earnings over the past few years. That was a nice feeling of validation. Something even more concrete than numbers and decimals on a bank statement. I took my wife and parents to Italy and at least part of it was paid for by royalties.  Wow. [For all of you wildly successful authors who pay for everything with royalties...well, remember how paying for that first thing felt?].

In four weeks, there were a number of writing-related events.

For one, my Dad brought along some light reading for the plane trip -- Some Degree of Murder by Frank Zafiro and Colin Conway. Wonder where he got that? And signed, even?

Seriously, though, it was pretty satisfying to hear him say repeatedly and intensely, "This book is awesome. It would make a great movie!" Yeah, he's biased, I know. Just a little. But it was still good hear it from him.

I also made my wife cry on this trip. No, I wasn't being mean. But she read a draft of the forthcoming novella Chisolm's Debt, and somewhere on a train between Riomaggiore and Siena, the ending of that story made her choke up.

Yeah, I know. Another slightly biased reader. But still...felt good to have that impact. Especially when I figured she was going to hate it.

As you can imagine, I did some reading while traveling. Some of it was on the train, some of it by the plunge pool in Praiano, some of it in hotel rooms after a long day of sight-seeing. I finished a great biography on Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman. Then came a literary crime novel by Michael Chabon called The Yiddish Policemen's Union. It reminded me of Dennis Lehane, inasmuch as it was a great crime story with beautiful language. I also read one of John Grisham's earlier books, The Summons, which was decent but not as good as The Firm or some of his other work. I also read a book by a best-selling author with a couple dozen books out...that was horrible. I guess they can't all be winners.

Mostly, I soaked in the Italian culture. And food. And wine. Lots of wine. I spent time in Florence, where we saw Michelangelo's David. Truly stunning, and surprisingly so. We saw the canals of Venice, the northern coast at Riomaggiore, the hilltop city of Siena, ancient and modern Rome, Praiano on the Amalfi coast, and Naples (along with Pompeii).

Out of all that, I had some wonderful experiences with my wife and parents. I also came up with three new novel ideas to add to the list. They are:
 * A thriller set in Venice
 * A murder mystery set in Praiano, and
 * A family saga set in a lot of places, but starting in Italy.

All of which officially makes this trip research. (Of course, when you're a writer, all of life could be categorized as research, but this is the sort that can be more directly applied and withstand the scrutiny of the IRS.)

Now that I've returned from Italia, it's time to get back to work. But in addition to the trip of a lifetime, it was an especially good experience to see through a writer's eyes. I have no idea when those three books will be finished, or where they will fall in the project list, but I do know that spending time in the homeland...well, it almost felt like home.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Two Down, But I Cheated

A mere week or so into this new gig as a full time writer, and I've got two completed projects to brag about...or maybe not.

Does cheating count? That's the determining question here.

I finished CHISOLM'S DEBT, a River City novella of about 37,000 words, earlier this week. When I retired, I had about 23,000 words or so finished on this. In reality, then, I finished the final third of it after retiring.

But I finished. So cool on that, right?

The second project is even less impressive. First off, I am only writing half of it. My partner, Jim Wilsky is nailing the other half. And really all that was left to do after my retirement was for us to collaborate on the final chapter. So we did. Back and forth, talking about it, trying things out, and today it is done. Finished first draft, my friends.

So that is TWO projects since taking this job.

I gotta tell ya, even if it is cheating, that feels good.

So good, in fact, that I think I'll take the next month off. Wander around Italy with my wife and parents. Yeah, why not?  Hell, I earned it.

I finished two projects already. Did I mention that?

Friday, June 14, 2013

And They're Off...

First scheduled day as a self-employed writer was today. I'd planned on giving myself Thursday to...er...recover from my retirement celebration on Wednesday night. But I only imbibed a reasonable amount of the demon liquid (actually had my first Irish Car Bomb, along with a shot of Crown Royal, and several glasses of Mark West Pinot Noir...how on earth did I not get sick?). I was thus able to:

A)   Completely enjoy my retirement party, and

B)   Completely recall my retirement party (including standing on the bar and singing an Irish love song to me bonny wife), and

C)   Not need to recover on Thursday...much

As a result, I managed to write two chapters on the WIP I am collaborating with Jim Wilsky on. It's our third book together, and the third in a loosely related series featuring the mysterious and sexy grifter, Ania Kozak. 

In these books, Jim and I each take one of the two main characters and write the chapters featuring our character. The chapters alternate back and forth, and both characters are written in the first person. This way, you get an intimate view of each character but still get to know more than that character does. This is the same format that we used in Blood on Blood and Queen of Diamonds (just released in Kindle and paperback). It seems to work for us, both as a story mechanism and as a work process. One chapter at a time is a good pace, and it is always motivating to receive that chapter back from the other guy.

I wrote my character's final chapter yesterday, and a first shot at the final chapter of the book. Total of 1950 words, is all, but hey, I wasn't even supposed to be here. Now Jim will write his character's final chapter and his shot and the final chapter. Then we'll come together on that final chapter and that first draft will be done and ready for some readers to tear apart.

Today I wrote a single chapter in my other WIP, Chisolm's Debt. It was almost 3000 words long (2626 written today) and was, I think, a pretty important chapter. It sets up the last flashback chapter of the book, and leads into the final confrontation.

Here's a preview of the book cover for Chisolm's Debt, designed by Matt Rose. The photograph in the foreground is actually former SPD police officer Tom Chapman, who was the inspiration for the character of Thomas Chisolm.

Jim and I's project ought to be released in October 2013 or so, I'd guess. Chisolm's Debt? I hope September 2013.

All in all, a pretty satisfying "first" day behind the keyboard full time.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

First Day

Yesterday was my last day on the job. After twenty years of working with some of the most talented, dedicated people I've ever known, I hung up my skates. There was wonderful gathering at the department yesterday afternoon, and it was great to see everyone come say goodbye. I tried my best to express how well I've been treated by the people of the SPD, and how grateful I will always be for having had the honor to serve with them.

Later, at O'Doherty's (where else can you have a policeman's farewell), an even larger crowd came to lift a glass or two and celebrate all of it -- the retirement, the camaraderie, the memories. I was truly touched by how many people came, and how many people from the different parts of my life came.

Wisely (I think), I decided to pace myself so that I could remember and enjoy and soak up every moment of such a fun occasion. As evidenced by the time stamp on this entry and the fact I'm sitting here sipping coffee with only the mildest of headaches, I'd venture to say I was successful.

As a result, I have a treasured memory, and many people to thank (I'll do that in another venue, but you know who you are!).

And a last day of something always leads to a first day of something else. Today, I'm a full time writer. And after I get Microsoft to help me fix my MS Word install, I'll be getting to work. My new boss wants results.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Last Day

Today is the last day I will be a police officer, something I've been since 1993.

Tomorrow is the first day that I'll be a full time writer.

Crazy, huh?

I am excited. Feel a little bittersweet at leaving behind all of the people I've been friends with over these past two decades. But then again, I'm not going anywhere, so that takes some of the sting out of it. We'll still be friends. I just won't see them every day.

What I will see is this computer screen, and a thousand stories inside my head.

Hope they don't suck.

;-)

But tonight will be about celebration, and a police officer's farewell. Tomorrow will be about writing stories that hopefully don't suck.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Looking for A Few Good...Readers

I've been very lucky in my writing career so far. I have a couple of writer friends who have been stellar critique partners and a small group of readers who are happy to give great feedback on early drafts. They are blunt and honest, but they are on my side, so their criticism is intended to make the book better.

The problem is, I don't want to take advantage of those few people. I believe my output is going to increase over the next six months, and I would like to line up just a few additional people who might be willing to step in and be a first reader. That way, the people who help out are having fun, and aren't overtaxed.

What's it take to be a first reader?

Well....

* You have to be willing to read, and pretty quickly. You don't have to drop everything, but a couple of weeks turnaround is a good target.

* You have to be good at something [grin]. What I mean is, maybe you're a great proofreader or great at continuity or great at analyzing characters and motivations or maybe you have insight into plot or theme. Or maybe you're really good at taking a look at the big picture and saying whether it works or not and why or why not. Any of those skills works (it takes all kinds). You don't have to be an English major or an editor.

* You have to be honest. Direct. I can hear what you like (that's kinda fun), but why you like it is more important. Even more important than that is what is not working, and you'd have to be able to tell me "This part sucks." That, actually, is the whole point. But you do have to be on my side. What does that mean? Much like a coach helping an athlete, a first reader's criticism is intended help the author improve the story. Your criticism should be direct, blunt, harsh...and constructive.

So there's the job description. With apologies, the pay is poor (a thank you, an acknowledgement, and a free paperback version of the final product is about all I can do right now), and it takes a certain kind of person to want to do it. If that's you, shoot me an email at fscalise3@gmail.com.

And to those half dozen people who have been reading for me for some time now...you know who you are...thanks! There will be more coming your way later this year.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

T-Minus 3

Not counting the weekend (and who counts the weekend, really?), I have three days until I will no longer be a police officer. Instead, I will be a writer.

Full time.

How have I prepared for this since making the decision to retire?

Well, I've told a lot of people.

And I've lined up a couple of teaching gigs as a sideline.

I've done some more planning on our vacation to Italy in 18 days.

Watched hockey with my wife (it is the playoffs, you know).

On the writing front, I mapped out the projects I want to accomplish by the end of 2014 (I'll share more on that soon).

I kept up my reading of Joe Konrath's blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing (I'd call him the pioneer of indie publishing, if you're asking who he is).

I even made some great spreadsheets to keep track of project progress, and downloaded some interesting word count programs.

But I haven't put those programs to much use yet.

Nope. Haven't written a word.

Someone I work with asked me if I was getting scared, or excited.

I said, "Yes."

But honestly, it's mostly the latter. I feel like I'm standing on the blue line, helmet in hand, listening to the last strains of the national anthem, getting ready to play the game I love. There's always butterflies, but it's a good kind of nervous. More like pent up enthusiasm and pre-game excitement.

So I feel okay about not diving into my WIP (it's called Chisolm's Debt, and I'm maybe half way through it as a part time writer...we'll see how quick the full time version can go). Planning vacations, spending time with my family, and enjoying the last few days of a twenty year career isn't a bad way to spend three more days.

Wednesday the 12th, there will be a retirement celebration. Being as it's a policeman's farewell, it's at an Irish bar. Thursday, I'm not so sure what kind of shape I'll be in. Just being honest.

Which means that on Friday the 14th the puck drops on my first day at my new job.

Stick around. It'll be fun.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A New Journey Begins...

So I'm sitting here thinking to myself...holy crap. I am at the edge of the diving board, staring down the water, about to jump. How does that feel?

Scary? Yeah, maybe a little.

Exhilarating? Absolutely.

Hopeful? Yup.

What the hell am I talking about? 

Here it is. After a twenty year law enforcement career, I am retiring to pursue my lifelong dream. Not to be a writer. I am a writer (and so are you if write). But to be a full-time author.

You hear the word 'retirement,' and you think, "Ah, so what then? No risk there. He's got a pension." Well, you're right there, and wrong. I do have a pension. I can draw on it when I turn 50 (with a minor penalty, 53 without). I'll be 45 in August. So yeah, this is a little bit of a leap of faith on the financial front. About five years worth of one (or eight, I suppose).

More than that, though, it's a leap of faith on the dream front. I've been writing a lot since 2006, at least for a guy working a full time job in a field that is very demanding of my time. But the writing has always been the sideline to my main career, at least in the eyes of most. My wife always knew who and what I am at my core -- a writer -- but I think most people thought of me as a cop who did some writing on the side. For the most part, they were right. I earned my living as a cop. I love my community, my department, and the courageous men and women I was lucky enough to serve alongside.

But I've always been a writer at heart.

Most people I worked with weren't aware that I cracked the top 10 in police procedural writers on Amazon. I even held the number 1 slot for a while. Because I was a cop who wrote and not a writer who used to be a cop, that accomplishment seemed slightly muted compared to what I thought it would be. That's because law enforcement was my number one gig.

And it should be. Much like a doctor at the operating room table, a career in law enforcement requires you pay attention. I think everyone can agree to that. And when you're in a command role, you have to pay attention to more things.

But in less than two weeks, I won't be in law enforcement anymore. I am retiring. So now all of that focus will be on my writing career. I am pursuing my dream with the full support of my wife (and, truth be told, the financial support of my wife).

I think some people hold onto their dreams without truly going after them for a lot of different reasons. Maybe they really don't have the time to try. Maybe the dream is unrealistic. Maybe they don't really want the dream but like to be able to say they do. But I think a big reason some people don't truly go after their dream is because if you never go after the dream and risk failing at it, then you can always hang onto that dream. If you go for it and fail, or discover it isn't what you thought it was going to be, or any other form of letdown or failure, then you can't have that dream any longer.

My wife is a source of a lot of very wise, simple, profound statements. Recently, she channeled an old Animals song (or a newer Bon Jovi one) without knowing it when she said, "It's your life. You have to live it." Those simple words reminded me that life is short, and if we never pursue our dreams, for whatever reason, then we never know. I'd rather fail than regret. (Truth be told, though, I'd rather succeed than fail!).

I'm dedicating this blog to that journey, wherever it may take me. I'm hoping you'll come along for the ride. I welcome your comments, thoughts, and questions. Like I said, I'm all in when it comes to living my dream. Or as a particularly gifted songwriter once wrote, I am going to chase this dream "with all the madness in my soul."


Frank Scalise (aka Zafiro)

P.S. Thank you to the Spokane Police Department for giving me twenty years of a life worth living.

P.P.S. Thank you to my wife, Kristi, for giving me all the support a man could ask for, all the love a man could ever need, and for giving me the rest of my life worth living. I love you with all the madness in my soul.