This week, I took a leap.
I’d been thinking about it, talking about it and obsessing over it for a while, but two days ago – in a moment of bravery – I went for it.
I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my parents’ basement at an old typewriter, writing a story about becoming the youngest person in history to step foot onto the Wimbledon Centre Court only to be destroyed by my (then) hero Stefan Edberg. I wrote my way through high school and college, through newspapers, magazines and websites, tv and radio commercials, even scripts for sitcoms and movies. I wrote books for me and for others. I’ve worked with publishers big and small and I’ve had some amazing experiences along the way.
But something was always kind of missing. Writing for editors, agents and clients has always meant at least some compromise. I’ve been given leeway, but never had the confidence to pursue freedom. Then, a year ago, it hit me – I can own my own success and write the stories that I want to write. I can take responsibility for the stories I ache to tell and put my faith in others to help make my dreams of writing a reality.
So that’s what I did and what I’m doing.
I wrote “The Red-Eyed Monster Bass” for my kids, but also for myself and my own childhood. The first book I remember reading on purpose was “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen. I loved it. I loved the adventure. I loved the sense of proximity you can only get from reading. Paulsen lead to Jack London who lead to Hemingway who lead to Kerouac, who has lead to Bill Bryson, Tony Horwitz, Hampton Sides, J. Maarten Troost, the Hardy Boys, Goosebumps, Harry Potter and many, many others. I always admired these writers, though I never imagined having the bravery to put something I truly love into the world.
It was my kids who convinced me. Jack, the oldest, has always been a reader. He devours books and tells me I should write more. He stood at my side during my first book signing six years ago, beaming with pride and inking his name next to mine. It was Dylan, who loves stories and adventure, sitting in a canoe with me in Northern Michigan, asking me to tell him a story. When he caught a small red-eyed bass, the character was born. It’s Molly, my curious, vivacious little girl, who tells me to write things down, to read her stories, to teach her to read.
So I went for it. I started writing a genre I’ve never written and it flowed like magic. Suddenly my brain couldn’t stop. Not just this book, but outlines for a dozen others. My fingers can’t keep up with my mind. For the first time in my writing life, I feel like I’ve found a calling.
I tried the usual channels – my agent (who is awesome), editors, friends – but the response was kind of the same: no magic, no doomsday, no Hunger Games, no sale. The writing is great. The story is great. But there’s no room for adventure unless its wrapped in a super hero cape. Ordinarily, I would have been crestfallen and defeated. But not this time. This time, I felt motivated. I decided to do it myself. Amazon has provided the means and I provide the vigor.
I asked my editor and close friend Adam Korn to join me. He agreed. I asked my friend and coworker Troy Hitch if he would lend his visual talents to cover design. He blew me away.
And now I’m asking you to join me.
I have no illusion that this little book will lead to an early retirement, but I have set a goal of selling 5,000 downloads. It’s a big number for an independent, but who goes after a dream sheepishly and succeeds? I’m asking you to buy the book – of course – for your children on Kindle or the Kindle app, but I’m also asking you to spread the word.
I’ve been blown away by the power of social media lately – a bit ironic given how much of my professional life is in the field. I’ve been astounded by its ability to connect people, to divide people, to unite and overcome. And I’m hoping to harness some of that power to help make this dream come true.
I can’t offer kickbacks or giveaways (not yet anyway, but I’ve got a plan for that so stay tuned). I’m not asking for money, apart from $3 for the download. I’m not begging. Instead, I’m forwarding my gratitude. I’m opening a vein and putting my trust in you, my friends, readers, coworkers, people I’ve never met, to help this dream come true. I promise you my gratitude. I promise you my devotion to the next book in the series (I’ve already got one drafted and two more in the works). I promise to pay it back when you need support.
But mostly, I promise you this: I believe in this project. I believe that reading “Hatchet” in the fifth grade was a lifelong gift. I believe that reading and adventure are vital to the development of personalities and minds and I believe there is room in this screen-centric world of video games and blockbusters for adventure in young readers’ minds.
I believe you will help prove me correct.
So check out the book – which has already sold 10 copies, is in the top 100 of its category and has a five-star review from an eighth grader I’ve never met. And if you like it, tell your friends with kids, their friends, teachers.
From one lifelong writer and dreamer to the lifelong dreamers, writers and readers of tomorrow, I thank you in advance.