For an author, nothing compares to your own book release—though seeing a friend get published comes awfully close!
This year, I’ve had the privilege of watching two of my peers reach the finish line with their respective literary ventures. The vicarious thrill I feel for them is buoyed by the fact that I played a small part in both of their journeys.
I don’t mention my contribution to pat myself on the back. Both of these gentlemen are tremendously talented, and even without my help, they would have produced a story well worth reading (and buying!). But because writing can be such a solitary pursuit at times, I think it’s important to point out that we all become better writers when we can depend on our peers’ experience, expertise, and, above all, support.
Both of the writers I’m about to introduce are fellow members of the Allied Authors of Wisconsin (AAW). Once I wrote about why writers groups still matter. If nothing else, the following examples should show that even if you could do it all yourself, it sure is nice to have some help along the way!
Always Gray in Winter
I met Mark J. Engels midway through the first draft of his debut novel, Always Gray in Winter. I was immediately impressed by his deep, complex story, well-developed characters, and fierce commitment to doing the featured werecat family justice. It helped that he also possessed a natural knack for stringing sentences together; with the basics mastered, he was well on his way transferring the action-packed plot from his gray matter to computer screen.
Over the past year and more, our friendship deepened, and he peppered me with many questions on everything from the craft of writing to the query process to book marketing. I also had the honor of being one of his beta readers.
Though I don’t profess to know everything about this crazy industry, I did my best to guide him. (If nothing else, my own missteps might have taught him what not to do). In return, I’ve been blessed to have him as a beta reader for my Soul Sleep Cycle novels (publication pending!) and my go-to guy for advice when I started my own business.
Every writer—and every book—has a unique path, and it sure has been a blast to watch Always Gray in Winter blossom from a thick binder tattooed by many-hued highlighters to a bona fide paperback, which released just last week.
That Wonderful Mexican Band
I’ve talked about Tom Ramirez before. He’s the one who exposed me to that old (apocryphal?) adage about how everything written before the one-million-word mark is simply finger exercises—inadvertently providing inspiration for the name of my publishing company, One Million Words.
What I haven’t said before—at least not officially—is that Tom is a mentor of mine. Not only did he invite me to join AAW in the first place, but also he has been both a tough critic and a generous cheerleader when I needed it over the years. Encouragement like that is a priceless thing for up-and-coming writers.
Some history: Tom had been working on his memoirs for as long as I have known him (11 years) and well before that too, on and off since the late 1960s. When he finished, it was time for me to return the favor by encouraging him to self-publish That Wonderful Mexican Band.
I also gave him a step-by-step plan for accomplishing this—not only because I had learned a thing or two while publishing The Renegade Chronicles, but because I truly believed his book needed to be published.
That Wonderful Mexican Band was released in January, and even though the pages tell of Tom’s life during the Great Depression, the book will always remind me of our 21st-century friendship.
Wonderful article, David. Thank you for featuring me. I feel likewise.
I plan to go to the Writer’s Club meeting next week and listen to Ramirez again. I read his stories a while back in the paper, and loved reading about the trouble he got into. He was like a real-life Little Rascal. 🙂 Must get him to sign my copy….
“Real-life Little Rascal” — you said it!
I’ll be his chauffeur for the evening, so I’ll see you there. 🙂