First, I want to apologize about not keeping up with this blog. February was a weird month for this writer, and period of contrasts, of ups and downs. It started with the end of a great January. Sales were good. A new book came out and was doing very well on Amazon. I traveled cross country to Colorado for the Superstars Writing Seminar. I met some great people there, both beginning writers and people who had scaled the mountain and achieved the success I am still hoping to achieve. Now, 75,000 sales is not bad, but some, Kevin J Anderson, for example, have sold multiple millions. But all in all it was a great time, a great learning experience. I was celebrated as an indie success. Of course I’ve got an ego, and praise always feels good. I flew back to Tallahassee with great plans to get to work on my goals. Up next was a local interest book about growing up in Venice Florida, to be followed quickly by the next volumes of the Exodus and The Deep Dark Well series. I was also determined to work up a fantasy novel for submission to Baen Books. So I arrived in Tallahassee with great expectations and settled in my study to, well, nothing. The rest of February was a disaster as far as work went. I typed no new words. I did no marketing. The last blog about Superstars was about all I could get off the hard drive and onto the net. Mostly I read and played computer strategy games, which in and of themselves are not bad activities for a writer, as long as they’re not all there is. I learn from both, and ideas got kicked around in my mind. And I socialized more than normal. Writing is kind of a lonely business. Just you, your computer and your own head. And sometimes living alone in your own head is being in bad company. The only thing I miss about my old job is the daily contact I had with people who were involved in the same Government run mess as I was.
About the only thing I really put effort into was working out, which was a good thing. Even on the day I hurt my back, yet again, I went into the gym and worked with my trainer, and discovered ways to work around an injury while strengthening the weak point. But the writing went out the window that looks over my small back yard. So what happened? I was trained as a psychologist, so I should be able to figure this stuff out. Was it, sitting on the side of the mountain of success I had worked so hard to climb, I realized the top was still so far above me? Now I can see more clearly the challenges that lay ahead. Or was it Imposter Syndrome, something I had learned about in two different professional programs? The feeling that I had fooled so many people, and that once they got to really know me, and to understand how little talent I had, they would come to hate me. Then, late last week, I received this email. I have removed the name to protect the privacy of the sender, but all else is a direct copy:
Sir, I just bought your new book “Ranger,” and want to make a comment on your observation in the “Notes for Fans.” I very much enjoy your descriptions and depictions of ground combat, the utter confusion, violence, heartbreak and nobility. I love space opera and space combat as much as most fans (the Honorverse, Crimson Worlds, Sten series, Wilf Brim, etc) I absolutely love the ground conflict parts (Falkenberg’s Legion, Tom Kratman’s work, etc).
As a retired US Marine with 4 combat tours, it was sci-fi such as yours that got me through the stress. I recognize so much of the moral dilemma’s the “sloppiness” of war and the frequent choices of bad or more bad as the only choices available. Space combat, when written, soon becomes too stylized and dependent on better tech or surprise, but ground combat is far more unpredictable, and on occasion foes sometimes find out they have much in common or are faced with a greater threat forcing them to work together. And ground combat always shows both the inhumanity and humanity of human beings, and the essential nobility, fragility and crippling fear of men, women and children.
And finally, as both a combat veteran and semi-professional historian, when ships of war engage in conflict, be it in space or on the sea, some poor bastard of a grunt will always need to stick a flag into the burnt and shattered ground and say, “This is ours!”
So please, keep writing the ground combat stuff. It is highly appreciated.
Major, USMC Retired
After reading this it struck me. All of the other things, the dreams of success, the mind games, the self doubt. All is BS. The reason most of us write is because we have stories within us that we need to tell. And sometimes the payoff is that people love those stories, that they see the work that went into making them as real as possible, even in the realms of scifi and fantasy. And sometimes, if we’re lucky, they help a reader to work their way through the stress of situations most of us can’t really imagine. Since receiving this email I have started back at the keyboard. I am studying, worldbuilding, getting an idea ready for that Baen submission. Things are back on track. The book of local interest is on hold for the moment. It is not of enough interest to pull me away from the stories I want to tell. So, thank you Major. Semper Fidelis indeed.