I’m on the precipice. I should really say “we’re” on the precipice. There were so many people involved in this process, when I sat down to write the acknowledgments for Crimson Son, I was at a bit of a loss.

I wanted the words of thanks up front, like the books I’ve read all my life. I do understand that those accustomed to instant gratification may not appreciate having to turn a few pages before they get to the free preview on Amazon or B&N, but I’m not sure how I would have felt with them buried at the tail end of things. So, to my future readers, have patience with me – I’m new at all this.

There were so many names going through my mind, so many people I wanted to thank. In the end, for the book, I followed the expert advice and keep it short and sweet. In my little digital corner here, I can indulge.

This journey started years ago. A compulsive reader and an inquisitive child – you’ve heard that story many times before. I wrote a little book in the midst of failing grades and epic class clownery that was elementary school. I finally got good marks.

You would think that should have been a clue. Or even Mrs. Best’s frazzled note that said I had an aptitude for creative writing (for she needed hope that I wasn’t a wholly lost cause.) But I didn’t write creative fiction again until I had a short story published in our high school anthology. Students quoted it to me the following day. I thought they were being weird.

Then came college. I needed a career and writing isn’t a career, is it? Besides, I didn’t like writing. My life had been spent in rebellion to school work and perfecting methods of procrastination. Scribbling out papers in the lunch room for English the next period or attacking a blank page the night before a major paper was due. Writing, all day, everyday as a J-O-B sounded terrible.

But those hastily written papers often got decent grades – more than they deserved for the effort I had given them. I found myself opting for classes where professors gave essay tests and papers. I slipped into a major that involved reading and writing on dense and arcane subjects. As much as I “disliked” writing, I wrote my way through a philosophy degree and barely acknowledged the fact.

I did take at least one creative writing course at a junior college. My sophomore English Professor, Mrs. Cantrell, made the suggestion. I think, at the time, I figured a class where I essentially made up the assignments would be a breeze. Among all the literary minded folks, I was the genre brat who wanted to turn my assignments into stories about knights or robots or other nonsensical things.

I did well. And yet again, another teacher remarked, in a roundabout way, that I had some spark of talent.

So naturally, I became a graphic designer.

And then a stay at home father.

And next, an investigator for the FBI.

Then a time came where I was on a precipice, but a slightly different one than today’s. Six years in with the Bureau and you approach a point of no return. The retirement benefits there are unheard of in the public sector. Once you’re on that golden egg, you don’t get up until it hatches.

I tried to go deeper, get more involved and found my heart wasn’t in it. Often, I stood on that precipice alone, my family hundreds of miles away. I was worn down, and despite all the excitement, the office politics and bureaucracy of a government job were a constant chore. I was always putting my creativity on a tight leash.

So I walked away. I dabbled in private investigation, trying to squeeze a bit more out of my training and started picking up some graphic design work on the side until, ultimately, that was all I was doing.

Then, one day, when the design jobs weren’t coming in and the crazies that normally called and asked me to bug their child’s car or follow their wife (while they, in turn, “visited” their ex), I found I needed some cash to pay the phone bill. I stumbled across a now defunct writing site (Helium) and in a matter of a few days had sold several articles.

It was a brief reminder that “hey, I can do this”, but it stuck with me. That little ember glowed in my chest and refused to be dampened this time. My only tenuous connection to writing over the years had been an RPG hobby for which I would create highly detailed, fantastical worlds for my friends to explore. (Okay, so maybe “tenuous” isn’t the right word.) But at last, all the little pieces started to fall into place.

I was a writer.

I dipped a toe in the water with an online creative writing class offered by Stanford. There, I met my first batch of writerly friends under instructor Shannon Robinson (apologies again for the whole writing exercise where I convinced several members of my Allodoxaphobia) and found a wonderfully diverse and supportive community. I got a crash course in criticism and for the first time, learned that while writing was work, it was enjoyable work.

With the class coming to an end, I set off to find a similar group, but one where I didn’t have to navigate chat rooms and emoticons to discuss this new passion. By grace, miracle, or sheer luck, I came across the North Branch Writer’s Critique Group only 8 miles from my house.

In that group, I felt like I had finally found a place where I belonged. As time went on, the group grew and became a magnet for some amazing writers and critiquers. There, in our little world of buttons and intrigue, is where Crimson Son was nurtured and shaped into the something resembling a book. 96000 words. And I “hated” writing.

I started to expand my support group of fellow dreamers. I learned about local conventions and mingled in a community of hopes and struggles. I stumbled across the North Texas Speculative Fiction Workshop and met even more people like myself that want to transform a passion for crafting fiction into a career.

Writers, bloggers, readers, reviewers. I’ve even had the pleasure of working with several fantastic editors who were willing to give a new writer a chance and print some of my early work, warts and all.

Thanks so much to everyone that helped make this happen. I’m going to do what I couldn’t do in the book and point fingers and name names.

My Crit Peeps at North Branch (in no particular order…):

Benjamin Inn
Alex Langley
Annie Neugebauer
Jennifer August
Regina Richards
Sam Cummings
Dan Hammond
David Gibson
Febe Moss
Razaq Durodoye
Brittany Dillard
Molly Jessup
Megan Fitch
Lori Lorie Burkhart
Laurie Brown
Rodney Burke

Beta Readers

Tom Howard
Brian McKean
Andy Hunter
Matt Jones
Christina Corless
Herman Samuel

Online Writer support group and regulars at my quiet little blog

Angelique Jamail

Hughie Gibson
Shawn Scarber
Chesley Cox
Laura Maisano

My Editor

Heather Bungard Janney

Most importantly

My family, immediate and extended, who have all been nothing but supportive. Mostly though, I have to thank my amazing wife. I like to proudly say how I saved up the funds for this little business venture through my graphic design business, which I certainly did. However, she keeps the lights on so I can continue to commit all this craziness to the page in hopes of someday being able to repay her. (Hopefully she accepts signed copies and book swag.)

Thanks everyone. Keep your dreams alive and if there is ever anything you need of me, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Categories: Author News

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13 replies

  1. I hope to one day see the “alternate ending” in the special edition DVD.

  2. Enjoyed reading your acknowledgement! We are very proud of you and glad to see you have found something that you like to do. We know that you are very talented and can do anything you set your mind too.

    • Proving you right since 1974.
      (See everyone, SEE all this support I have to deal with. It’s like I’m in a 12 step program. Hmmm, writers might need that. “Hi, my name is Russ. I’m a writer.”)

  3. I am so happy to have met you at DFWCon last year and to have gotten to know you. Can’t wait for Crimson Son! 🙂 You’ve also been so helpful sharing your experiences with self-publishing here on your blog in an honest and revealing way that isn’t trying to sell a writer something. 😉 Rock on with your bad self, Russ.

  4. Congrats on the book and all the advice/learning you share with others. Guess I’m going to have to buy it now, since you never brought it back to the group to read the ending. I’ll get you to sign it, but you at least have to spell my name correctly.

  5. I read this a while back but just now grabbed a minute to comment. Thanks for including me! I was also touched that you included the NBWCG in your book acknowledgements. 🙂 Congrats again; can’t wait to see a physical copy!

    • You’re welcome – I’m really not sure what shape this project would have taken or what direction I would have gone without the group so of course I’d include you guys! Bringing in my copy tomorrow – I’ll try to actually be there early.

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