Saturday, June 22, 2013

Two Down, But I Cheated

A mere week or so into this new gig as a full time writer, and I've got two completed projects to brag about...or maybe not.

Does cheating count? That's the determining question here.

I finished CHISOLM'S DEBT, a River City novella of about 37,000 words, earlier this week. When I retired, I had about 23,000 words or so finished on this. In reality, then, I finished the final third of it after retiring.

But I finished. So cool on that, right?

The second project is even less impressive. First off, I am only writing half of it. My partner, Jim Wilsky is nailing the other half. And really all that was left to do after my retirement was for us to collaborate on the final chapter. So we did. Back and forth, talking about it, trying things out, and today it is done. Finished first draft, my friends.

So that is TWO projects since taking this job.

I gotta tell ya, even if it is cheating, that feels good.

So good, in fact, that I think I'll take the next month off. Wander around Italy with my wife and parents. Yeah, why not?  Hell, I earned it.

I finished two projects already. Did I mention that?

Friday, June 14, 2013

And They're Off...

First scheduled day as a self-employed writer was today. I'd planned on giving myself Thursday to...er...recover from my retirement celebration on Wednesday night. But I only imbibed a reasonable amount of the demon liquid (actually had my first Irish Car Bomb, along with a shot of Crown Royal, and several glasses of Mark West Pinot Noir...how on earth did I not get sick?). I was thus able to:

A)   Completely enjoy my retirement party, and

B)   Completely recall my retirement party (including standing on the bar and singing an Irish love song to me bonny wife), and

C)   Not need to recover on Thursday...much

As a result, I managed to write two chapters on the WIP I am collaborating with Jim Wilsky on. It's our third book together, and the third in a loosely related series featuring the mysterious and sexy grifter, Ania Kozak. 

In these books, Jim and I each take one of the two main characters and write the chapters featuring our character. The chapters alternate back and forth, and both characters are written in the first person. This way, you get an intimate view of each character but still get to know more than that character does. This is the same format that we used in Blood on Blood and Queen of Diamonds (just released in Kindle and paperback). It seems to work for us, both as a story mechanism and as a work process. One chapter at a time is a good pace, and it is always motivating to receive that chapter back from the other guy.

I wrote my character's final chapter yesterday, and a first shot at the final chapter of the book. Total of 1950 words, is all, but hey, I wasn't even supposed to be here. Now Jim will write his character's final chapter and his shot and the final chapter. Then we'll come together on that final chapter and that first draft will be done and ready for some readers to tear apart.

Today I wrote a single chapter in my other WIP, Chisolm's Debt. It was almost 3000 words long (2626 written today) and was, I think, a pretty important chapter. It sets up the last flashback chapter of the book, and leads into the final confrontation.

Here's a preview of the book cover for Chisolm's Debt, designed by Matt Rose. The photograph in the foreground is actually former SPD police officer Tom Chapman, who was the inspiration for the character of Thomas Chisolm.

Jim and I's project ought to be released in October 2013 or so, I'd guess. Chisolm's Debt? I hope September 2013.

All in all, a pretty satisfying "first" day behind the keyboard full time.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

First Day

Yesterday was my last day on the job. After twenty years of working with some of the most talented, dedicated people I've ever known, I hung up my skates. There was wonderful gathering at the department yesterday afternoon, and it was great to see everyone come say goodbye. I tried my best to express how well I've been treated by the people of the SPD, and how grateful I will always be for having had the honor to serve with them.

Later, at O'Doherty's (where else can you have a policeman's farewell), an even larger crowd came to lift a glass or two and celebrate all of it -- the retirement, the camaraderie, the memories. I was truly touched by how many people came, and how many people from the different parts of my life came.

Wisely (I think), I decided to pace myself so that I could remember and enjoy and soak up every moment of such a fun occasion. As evidenced by the time stamp on this entry and the fact I'm sitting here sipping coffee with only the mildest of headaches, I'd venture to say I was successful.

As a result, I have a treasured memory, and many people to thank (I'll do that in another venue, but you know who you are!).

And a last day of something always leads to a first day of something else. Today, I'm a full time writer. And after I get Microsoft to help me fix my MS Word install, I'll be getting to work. My new boss wants results.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Last Day

Today is the last day I will be a police officer, something I've been since 1993.

Tomorrow is the first day that I'll be a full time writer.

Crazy, huh?

I am excited. Feel a little bittersweet at leaving behind all of the people I've been friends with over these past two decades. But then again, I'm not going anywhere, so that takes some of the sting out of it. We'll still be friends. I just won't see them every day.

What I will see is this computer screen, and a thousand stories inside my head.

Hope they don't suck.

;-)

But tonight will be about celebration, and a police officer's farewell. Tomorrow will be about writing stories that hopefully don't suck.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Looking for A Few Good...Readers

I've been very lucky in my writing career so far. I have a couple of writer friends who have been stellar critique partners and a small group of readers who are happy to give great feedback on early drafts. They are blunt and honest, but they are on my side, so their criticism is intended to make the book better.

The problem is, I don't want to take advantage of those few people. I believe my output is going to increase over the next six months, and I would like to line up just a few additional people who might be willing to step in and be a first reader. That way, the people who help out are having fun, and aren't overtaxed.

What's it take to be a first reader?

Well....

* You have to be willing to read, and pretty quickly. You don't have to drop everything, but a couple of weeks turnaround is a good target.

* You have to be good at something [grin]. What I mean is, maybe you're a great proofreader or great at continuity or great at analyzing characters and motivations or maybe you have insight into plot or theme. Or maybe you're really good at taking a look at the big picture and saying whether it works or not and why or why not. Any of those skills works (it takes all kinds). You don't have to be an English major or an editor.

* You have to be honest. Direct. I can hear what you like (that's kinda fun), but why you like it is more important. Even more important than that is what is not working, and you'd have to be able to tell me "This part sucks." That, actually, is the whole point. But you do have to be on my side. What does that mean? Much like a coach helping an athlete, a first reader's criticism is intended help the author improve the story. Your criticism should be direct, blunt, harsh...and constructive.

So there's the job description. With apologies, the pay is poor (a thank you, an acknowledgement, and a free paperback version of the final product is about all I can do right now), and it takes a certain kind of person to want to do it. If that's you, shoot me an email at fscalise3@gmail.com.

And to those half dozen people who have been reading for me for some time now...you know who you are...thanks! There will be more coming your way later this year.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

T-Minus 3

Not counting the weekend (and who counts the weekend, really?), I have three days until I will no longer be a police officer. Instead, I will be a writer.

Full time.

How have I prepared for this since making the decision to retire?

Well, I've told a lot of people.

And I've lined up a couple of teaching gigs as a sideline.

I've done some more planning on our vacation to Italy in 18 days.

Watched hockey with my wife (it is the playoffs, you know).

On the writing front, I mapped out the projects I want to accomplish by the end of 2014 (I'll share more on that soon).

I kept up my reading of Joe Konrath's blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing (I'd call him the pioneer of indie publishing, if you're asking who he is).

I even made some great spreadsheets to keep track of project progress, and downloaded some interesting word count programs.

But I haven't put those programs to much use yet.

Nope. Haven't written a word.

Someone I work with asked me if I was getting scared, or excited.

I said, "Yes."

But honestly, it's mostly the latter. I feel like I'm standing on the blue line, helmet in hand, listening to the last strains of the national anthem, getting ready to play the game I love. There's always butterflies, but it's a good kind of nervous. More like pent up enthusiasm and pre-game excitement.

So I feel okay about not diving into my WIP (it's called Chisolm's Debt, and I'm maybe half way through it as a part time writer...we'll see how quick the full time version can go). Planning vacations, spending time with my family, and enjoying the last few days of a twenty year career isn't a bad way to spend three more days.

Wednesday the 12th, there will be a retirement celebration. Being as it's a policeman's farewell, it's at an Irish bar. Thursday, I'm not so sure what kind of shape I'll be in. Just being honest.

Which means that on Friday the 14th the puck drops on my first day at my new job.

Stick around. It'll be fun.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A New Journey Begins...

So I'm sitting here thinking to myself...holy crap. I am at the edge of the diving board, staring down the water, about to jump. How does that feel?

Scary? Yeah, maybe a little.

Exhilarating? Absolutely.

Hopeful? Yup.

What the hell am I talking about? 

Here it is. After a twenty year law enforcement career, I am retiring to pursue my lifelong dream. Not to be a writer. I am a writer (and so are you if write). But to be a full-time author.

You hear the word 'retirement,' and you think, "Ah, so what then? No risk there. He's got a pension." Well, you're right there, and wrong. I do have a pension. I can draw on it when I turn 50 (with a minor penalty, 53 without). I'll be 45 in August. So yeah, this is a little bit of a leap of faith on the financial front. About five years worth of one (or eight, I suppose).

More than that, though, it's a leap of faith on the dream front. I've been writing a lot since 2006, at least for a guy working a full time job in a field that is very demanding of my time. But the writing has always been the sideline to my main career, at least in the eyes of most. My wife always knew who and what I am at my core -- a writer -- but I think most people thought of me as a cop who did some writing on the side. For the most part, they were right. I earned my living as a cop. I love my community, my department, and the courageous men and women I was lucky enough to serve alongside.

But I've always been a writer at heart.

Most people I worked with weren't aware that I cracked the top 10 in police procedural writers on Amazon. I even held the number 1 slot for a while. Because I was a cop who wrote and not a writer who used to be a cop, that accomplishment seemed slightly muted compared to what I thought it would be. That's because law enforcement was my number one gig.

And it should be. Much like a doctor at the operating room table, a career in law enforcement requires you pay attention. I think everyone can agree to that. And when you're in a command role, you have to pay attention to more things.

But in less than two weeks, I won't be in law enforcement anymore. I am retiring. So now all of that focus will be on my writing career. I am pursuing my dream with the full support of my wife (and, truth be told, the financial support of my wife).

I think some people hold onto their dreams without truly going after them for a lot of different reasons. Maybe they really don't have the time to try. Maybe the dream is unrealistic. Maybe they don't really want the dream but like to be able to say they do. But I think a big reason some people don't truly go after their dream is because if you never go after the dream and risk failing at it, then you can always hang onto that dream. If you go for it and fail, or discover it isn't what you thought it was going to be, or any other form of letdown or failure, then you can't have that dream any longer.

My wife is a source of a lot of very wise, simple, profound statements. Recently, she channeled an old Animals song (or a newer Bon Jovi one) without knowing it when she said, "It's your life. You have to live it." Those simple words reminded me that life is short, and if we never pursue our dreams, for whatever reason, then we never know. I'd rather fail than regret. (Truth be told, though, I'd rather succeed than fail!).

I'm dedicating this blog to that journey, wherever it may take me. I'm hoping you'll come along for the ride. I welcome your comments, thoughts, and questions. Like I said, I'm all in when it comes to living my dream. Or as a particularly gifted songwriter once wrote, I am going to chase this dream "with all the madness in my soul."


Frank Scalise (aka Zafiro)

P.S. Thank you to the Spokane Police Department for giving me twenty years of a life worth living.

P.P.S. Thank you to my wife, Kristi, for giving me all the support a man could ask for, all the love a man could ever need, and for giving me the rest of my life worth living. I love you with all the madness in my soul.