My Biggest Fan

I remember when I was a kid, and I enjoyed writing stories and “making books”. It was a hobby of mine. I know, I had weird hobbies, but then again, it was before I even touched a computer, let alone an Atari 2600 (Wow! Dating myself there!). These books were in comics form, and I wrote them mainly for my own enjoyment, but I shared them with friends and family. These stories were simplistic, but they had identifiable characters with some sense of development, as well as cohesive story lines that made sense, so the basic bones of writing were there. I remember sharing them with my mother, who, even at that early age, told me that one day I’d be an author. I think I wanted to be a cowboy or a fighter pilot then, I’m not sure; writing for a living was pretty far out for me then.

Flash forward a few years, through high school and into college. I still wrote stories, sometimes because I had to for a class assignment, but I put the same effort and love into those mandated projects as I did into anything I did just for fun. Friends, family, and even a teacher or two thought I had potential. But mom was my biggest booster. She told me that I could do anything I wanted, but that writing was my art and my gift. At the time, other things were in my mind — other career ideas, other life goals, and, oh yeah, girls, too — so I put the writing bug on the back burner.

And on the back burner it stayed. Occasionally, I’d try to pursue a project, only to make it a few pages, maybe even a few chapters, before giving up in frustration and tossing the thing into the nearest trash bin. I’ll never write a book, I told myself. I can’t. I don’t have what it take to be an author.

And yet, there my mother was, encouraging me all along, telling me that I did have what it takes, that the talent and the skill were there for me — but no matter what path I pursued, she would still be proud of me.

But I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel I was worth being proud of, and I sure didn’t feel I had anything remotely resembling talent. And no matter what other people told me, the lies I told to myself had more authority. So I listened to the lies and ignored what others told me. And I shelved the writing bug. However, I told myself that one day, I might try again. When that would be, I had no idea. And for years, “again” started looking like “never”.

Flash forward to 2014. I had given up on my dreams and had contented myself with mediocrity. But that year came the most devastating news I’d received since my father passed away — my mother had advanced heart disease, and had maybe a year and a half to live. I went through all the stages of grief, as we all do. But I was there for her, as much as I could be.

At that time, it came to me that maybe I needed to start writing again. I don’t know why it came at that time, but it did. And this time, I did not dismiss that voice. I started writing. I had no idea where I was going, and I had no idea what I was going to do with whatever it was that I would have when I finished. Seven or so months later, I had written a novel-length story, about a suburban loser who became a vampire. This story became Suburban Vampire. Mom was so proud, she was practically bursting. And I was proud, and despite the challenges that came afterward, I was glad that I had accomplished something, finally. But I wasn’t content; as I was searching for a publisher for the first novel, I wrote a second. Then I started a third.

Mom wasn’t the first person who read my early manuscript for Suburban Vampire, she was actually the second. But, between doctor’s appointments and hospital visits, she read the manuscript, and told me it was one of the best things she’d ever read. Seriously. One thing you must understand about my mother is that she was a voracious reader, from classics to lightweight mass-market fiction. And I dismissed what she said as “mom being my mom”, being supportive as she always was. But she insisted that it was true, that I was an author, and I had something going on here. She then read the early treatments of the sequel, Suburban Vampire Ragnarok, which she declared as even better than the first. And she kept telling me that these stories were not only enjoyable, but that I had to share them with the world. She kept telling me these things even on her death bed. I was able to share with her the story of my third novel (tentatively titled Suburban Vampire Reckoning), and she thought it was a great story. I told her I’d have to bring the manuscript to the hospital and let her read it. Unfortunately, she died a few days later.

Here I am, just a few years later, and I’ve written six novel length projects. I am trying to do what my mother told me, which is to share these stories with the world. I haven’t made much progress yet, but mom believed I could — and more than that, believed I would. So I am going to keep pushing until I do, and then I will push some more. And I will not give up. Those days are past now.

So, here’s to my first, and biggest fan — my mother. I dedicated my first novel to her, and my father, but in reality, I dedicate all my work to her. She believed in me when I could not believe in myself. And she inspired me to be better than I thought I could be. This one’s for you, mom. I love you, and I miss you.

I wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day.

Updates for 4/20

I just had a few little things I needed to share with ya’ll about where I’m at and what I’m up to…

  1. My sixth book, tentatively titled Suburban Vampire: Book of Origins, is in the can! Yep, I just wrapped up the first draft. This project was unlike any I’ve previously undertaken, and it will be unlike most anything you’ve ever read (how’s that for a teaser, huh?). It is a sweeping epic that spans thousands of years of history and thousands of miles of Earth. Since it is sort-of an anthology, it does not have chapters per-se, but is divided into books (I’ve got book I through book XIII. Yes, lucky number 13!). Some books are quite long (like 37 pages long) and one of the books is quite short (like 2 pages short). At well over 120,000 words, it is the longest work I have ever done, as befitting its epic status. Hopefully you will see this one become available sometime before I die, or before the world ends. Whichever comes first.
  2. In regards to my second novel, Suburban Vampire Ragnarok, the manuscript is currently with an editor. I have a real cool human being designing the cover (thanks, Cassie!). And, I have found a new publishing service. These guys have a wider distribution network than my previous publisher, so maybe you’ll see Ragnarok in your local brick-and-mortar bookstore!
  3. Umm, that’s about it for now. Anyway, please keep watching this space!
  4. For those of you who partake, smoke a bowl, dude! And for those of you who don’t, drugs are bad. Happy 4/20!!!

On Discouragement

I am probably the last person to speak to anyone about dealing with discouragement. I have always been a “glass half empty” kind of guy, and I generally have a pessimistic view of life, politics, and humanity in general (Would it figure that I’m a big fan of the study of history. If human history doesn’t get you down, nothing will). So how can I write something remotely useful on dealing with discouragement, when most of my life was lived in discouragement? I mean, why did it take me so long to complete a novel-length project, when I’d wanted to do one since I was a kid? That’s right, I was concerned with ‘getting it right’, with what people thought (which you think might be important, if you want what you wrote to sell), and I still am. So how is it that I have completed five novel-length works so far, and am working on a sixth? And how is that I have published one of those works (so far) with more on the way?

The whole story of how I finally “knuckled under”, so to speak, involves some personal issues and losses that I am not quite ready to discuss here, not yet. I guess I had to get to a point where I didn’t think I had anything to lose by finally pursuing my dream goal. I’ve made mention of being partially influenced by a “mid-life crisis”, and I suppose this is true. But you eventually get to a point where you become burdened more by the things you dreamed about and did not accomplish than by the petty concerns (either real or perceived) of acceptance and ‘fitting in’. I suppose that is why I finally reached my goal of writing a book.

And yet, it’s been on-and-off discouraging. Sales haven’t been the greatest, not yet. Now, I have received a few reviews of my work, both published (at Amazon and Goodreads) and verbal, and most of them have been good to glowing. However, it is the negative reviews — and I’ve received a couple of them — that nag at me. Wait, what? Most of your reviews have been positive, but you dwell on the few negatives? Are you crazy? I hope I’m not. But as I said, I tend to be harder on myself than any critic could be, and I tend to dwell in discouragement. So, how do I keep on doing what I’m doing?

That’s not so easy. I suppose there is the element of faith — in a good God and in myself, primarily, but also faith in the people who have supported my and my work. I don’t have many fans yet, but those I do have are an awesome bunch of folks, and I do thank you all (you know who you are!) from the bottom of my heart. That encouragement really does help. But I am also tired of giving up on myself and my passions. I did that for too long; it got me nowhere, which should come as no surprise. I am not going to do that anymore. I have found my path, and I am going to tread upon it, come criticism or praise. I can no longer allow a few naysayers to thwart me, including my biggest naysayer — myself.

In Suburban Vampire, I created a character known as Tommy the Tormentor. I can tell you how this character was influenced by JRR Tolkein’s Gollum, and to some extent he was. But more than that, Tommy was the personification of the “negative voice” that I’d entertained for far too long, the voice of discouragement, the voice that told me I could not or should not follow my dream. In the novel, we find that Tormentors are parasites, that you can never truly get rid of them, but you can remove their power from them, first by being aware of their existence, then by refusing to listen to them. That is how it works — awareness must come first, then taking power over that voice. Have I been totally successful in combating my personal tormentors? Of course not. But the more I forge ahead, despite the “slings and arrows”, the more empowered I become, and the less I care about the negative voices, be they external or internal.

In other words, just keep on keeping on. Do not worry about tomorrow, let tomorrow worry about itself. Do what you were meant to do. That doesn’t mean it will become easy, but perhaps it may become easier. This isn’t some “feel-good” trite cliched bunch of crap, this is a call to the hard work of gritting your teeth and doing hard work — but it is hard work that I love. Work hard at what you love, whether or not you make money from it, whether or not you achieve fame and fortune, just find what you love and pursue it — and learn to ignore the critics. That, my friends, is success.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with a little saying (I know, I’m trying not to be trite, oh well): “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, criticize”. So? Can you? Then do.

 

And now for a very special announcement…

Big announcement time!!! Franklin Posner has partnered with Myth Machine (https://mythmachine.com/) to bring the Suburban Vampire experience to a whole lot more readers and fans! Myth Machine is a new concept in e-publishing, in which authors can gain exposure to a much larger market than they had been able to reach before, as well as networking with readers to form fandoms. It’s an exciting concept in which novels will be made available for free to you, the reader, but authors will be paid through ad revenue. This is high-concept wave-of-the-future kind of stuff, and I am proud to say that I am one of the ground-floor authors to be able to take advantage of this new and exciting business model. Check us out at  https://mythmachine.com/start-reading/ and give the Myth Machine experience a try! They, and I, thank you for your interest and support!!!

Preview Time!!!

Just to get your appetites whetted for the sequel to Suburban Vampire: A Tale of the Human Condition – With Vampires, titled Suburban Vampire Ragnarok, here’s a little sneak peek. This is from the prologue sequence. So sit back and get ready (By the way, there are Nazis involved, and yes, they are the bad guys, which I hope should be obvious):

OSLO, NORWAY, JANUARY 1941

            Hauptsturmfuhrer Ernst Loeb paced nervously in the white-washed hallway of the administrative building. He had several things weighing on his mind; the current visit to Norway of Reichsfuhrer Himmler wasn’t even foremost among them. Loeb had been part of the planning detail for the visit, but was then given an alternate task, wired directly from Berlin. The details of this task had come directly from the office of the Fuhrer himself. Loeb had read the order, and momentarily thought the task beneath him (“Couldn’t my skills be put to better use sniffing out spies and collaborators, rather than pursuing antique trinkets in frozen fjords?” He asked himself, before assuring himself that he was picked for this errand by the Fuhrer himself – or at least, members of the Fuhrer’s staff). Worse yet, he noticed the name of the SS Officer who would be accompanying Himmler to Norway with the sole purpose of making sure this particular task had been completed adequately. Obersturmbannfuhrer Anton Schwartzknecht was a man of some fearsome reputation, even among the Waffen SS. He had personally killed more Polish, Russian, French, and British soldiers than almost any other officer in either the SS or the Wehrmacht. It actually was worse than that, considering that Loeb and Schwartzknecht had once come to blows over the attention of a young lady who worked in a grocers in Munich several years earlier. Loeb ended up married to the beautiful fraulein, much to Schwartzknecht’s chagrin; Loeb had then wisely chosen a career path that would take him as far away from Schwartzknecht as possible. But now all that careful planning was gone, and the fearsome Obersturmbannfuhrer was now in Loeb’s territory, and had outranked him. Things could not get much worse. He nervously checked his pocket watch again. He’s late.

Apparently, however, he must not have been that late, as soon a black Mercedes-Benz 170v pulled up to the white stone stairs outside the administrative building, tires crunching through the snow. The driver ran over to the passenger door, opened it, and snapped to attention, as the black-uniformed SS officer climbed out and glanced over the white building. Loeb almost ran down the stairs to meet Schwartzknecht. He stopped a couple steps up and saluted. “Heil Hitler,” He announced, to which Schwartzknecht responded.

“Welcome to Norway, Obersturmbannfuhrer, we are honored by your arrival,” Loeb said. Schwartzknecht furrowed his brow.

“Spare me the pleasantries, Hauptsturmfuhrer. The only thing I wish to hear from you right now is that you have the object.”

Loeb cleared his throat. “We are in the process of securing it, as we speak. Right now a detachment of SS along with Norwegian auxiliaries is closing in on the location of the object.”

“That is not what I wanted to hear, Hauptsturmfuhrer. That is not what Himmler wants to hear, and that is certainly not what Hitler wants to hear. I had conferred with the Fuhrer himself on this particular project, and it was I who selected you. I shall not allow your incompetence to make me look the fool in the Fuhrer’s eyes.”

“I assure you, we do have the location of the object, and it will be in our hands this very evening.”

“You seem certain of this. Please, share with me the source of your confidence.”

“We had the chance to interrogate an informant. A man who, it turns out, is a member of the organization known as ‘Ministry’.”

The mention of Ministry piqued Schwartzknecht’s interest, as his eyes widened. “Ministry, you say? We have had encounters with them before. Officially, they have been banned by the Third Reich, their resources confiscated, and their surviving members taken to labor camps. And you say that this… Ministry… had possession over the object in question?”

“Yes, and I am certain this information is accurate as we were very persuasive, and this information has been verified.”

“Good,” Schwartzknecht said, a rare smile cracking upon his steely face. “So where is the object being held?”

“In an ancient wooden stave church to the northeast of Trondheim.”

“And you are certain that the operation will proceed as ordered?”

“Absolutely. I advised the men to cleanse the place entirely. No survivors, as ordered.”

Schwartzknecht’s smile widened. “Excellent.” He then proceeded up the stairs, heading into the administrative building.

“Excuse me, Obersturmbannfuhrer, may I ask as to the significance of this object? I understand that the Fuhrer is interested in items of great metaphysical and religious significance, but from your description, this box of Huginn and Muninn just sounds like a simple wooden box…”

Schwartzknecht turned to face Loeb. “You may ask, of course. But I may not answer. Suffice it to say, it is a matter far above your security clearance.”

“Understood, sir,” Loeb replied. After all, it was a mission directly from the Fuhrer’s office. Who was he to question it?