Jim Butcher, plus ten to awesome!
Okay, so I guess I should disclaimer this whole blog post with this: Fanboy flail alert!
Some of you know that recently I was fortunate enough (due to the kindness and generosity of my friends and fan club) to attend writing seminar with a panel of NYT Best-selling authors, agents, and editors. It was an amazing experience, and not the first time for me there.
But hold on and let me crank up the time machine so I can dial it back and explain why this year was more special than before.
*Time machine sounds and 80’s visual effects*
There I was, 2008 and 18 years old having decided I was going to be a writer! I was going to follow the footsteps of my greatest literary hero, Jim Butcher. Naturally…I started writing fantasy instead of following my love of mythology and working on urban fantasy. Makes total sense.
I was 18…not a whole lot added up to what would be called sense.
Any who, for those that know me, I also tried to take my life around this point because I struggle with suicidal depression.
Okay, fast forward time to the better stuff because this is a positive post.
I started my first fantasy and it was wonderfully horrible. Awesomely so. How so? Awesomely. And as a new writer who obviously knew everything, I made sure to tell you on every page how awesome my fantasy was with the nauseating overly prosey prose of prose… If that novel was a scent, it’d be teenage overuse of Axe body spray. The writing could’ve choked you out.
*Presses fast forward harder*
It’s a few months after Jim Butcher releases Ghost Story in The Dresden Files. I’m feeling low. My writing isn’t going anywhere. I haven’t been submitting because, well, I feel like I’m crap. I’m looking for a personal sign from something in and out of life.
Tysons Corner mall, Barnes and Noble, big ole face and sign plastered along the wall. Jim Butcher will be there in December of that year (I believe…hard to remember the month) signing copies of Ghost Story.
Ay dios mio! Pardon my French. Erhm…
Well, if that ain’t a sign, I don’t know what is.
*Pushes FF button harder* *Weird speed up windy noises* < That’s a thing from before DVDs. There used to be something called VHS…for you kids out there.
Boom. In line and grumbling along because how dare an army of people stand in line before me to see my hero.
Then I start talking to people and realize, “Holy crap!” He’s not just my hero. His works have positively affected a metric buttload of people. From bringing cheer through hard times, to lifting them up and and strengthening them, to everything in between. His writing has literally inspired, changed, and saved lives. Something that, yes, can be said about and for a lot of writers and their work’s effect on their fans. But, every fan has their hero, and this was ours.
*Fast forwards harder*
My turn is almost up, I’m cracking jokes about the magical qualities of his hair while I’m in line. Saying things like, “It’s like a Loreal Buddha, if you stroke his hair, you get good luck.” Simple, silly things that make a few people, including Jim, chuckle/chortle. Was worth it. Now it’s my turn. He signs Ghost Story to me and I tell him about struggling as an author and my suicide attempt.
You’d probably imagine some weight fell and silence filled the immediate space. It’s a pretty weighty thing to tell someone.
He didn’t miss a beat in telling me to keep writing and the only person that could kill my dream was me. If I stopped, I’d never know and that’d be a waste.
Just like that.
He knew what to say.
He could have given me a platitude.
He could have shrugged it off with an, “I’m sorry, next.”
It was simple. It was honest and sincere. And it helped.
*Fast forwards so hard!*
It’s 2013 and I’ve written Grave Beginnings, book one of my paranormal investigator series, The Grave Report. See what’s happening here? I’m back to my roots and love for what I grew up with, urban fantasy. From the early Hellblazer comics. Television shows and movies focusing on or with mythology, to, yes, my first urban fantasy novel series I read, The Dresden Files. I’m doing what I love.
Christmas of 2013, boom, Grave Beginnings is published. Many of you who follow this little blog know how that novel’s gone on to do. Best book read of 2015 by A Drop of Ink Reviews. Selling so well in fact that I don’t need a day job atm. <It could always do better, wink wink, nudge nudge. 😉
As you can guess by the 2015 comment, yeah, we’ve sped up the time machine again. Yay.
*Boops button again*
2016 here we are. My mentor, and best friend Jim Hurd surprises me with a fully paid trip to a writing seminar led by Kevin J Anderson. I’m losing my mind and overwhelmed with all the fanboy emotions because I’m going to learn from the very best in the business. Woot!
Jim Butcher will be there.
So the seminar happened.
I met my hero, told him about my story, meeting him with Ghost Story and everything that’s happened since. Publishing Grave Beginnings and how it was because of him. I have paperback copies that are on me at that time that I brought to show off. I couldn’t imagine giving them away. Until a friend at the seminar says, “Give Jim one.”
*Cue heart breaking into the lambada*
Jim looks up and goes, “Yeah.”
Me: “Oh…ok.” *Heart beat intensifies* Because it’s totally normal for your hero to ask for your book. *Hands Jim Butcher my first novel*
Jim: “Did you sign it?”
Me: “I can do that?” <I’m smoother than Velveeta on silk.
Jim: “Yeah man, come on, that’s not cool.”
Me: *Hands trembling, signs Grave Beginnings*
Jim: “Want a picture?”
My inner brain. HELL YES! Aloud: “Ooookay….”
That just happened.
Dreams *spreads hands and rainbows appear between them*
What the ever-living-heckin’-hey.
But it happened.
Fast forward to a few months later. I release Grave Measures, book two in my series. My income’s gone up a tad. Pretty cool. I still remember meeting my hero, and though I’m not totally killing it yet as an author, I’m still fighting on because dreams come true. I met my hero but this time as a published author.
My novel Grave Measures is a finalist for the first ever DragonCon Dragon Awards alongside Jim Butcher, Larry Correia, N.K. Jemisin, James Baldwin, Dave Freer, and so many other amazing authors in other categories like Brandon Frickin’ Sanderson. I’m up for best fantasy (paranormal)…next to my hero. I don’t win. I didn’t expect to. But holy crap, right?
My sales go up…and hold. They’ve still held.
I drop my third novel this past December, Dangerous Ways, book one of a new series set in the same world.
I want to attend the seminar again, dreams, right?
My fans and friends crowdfund the trip for me.
O.O Oh my ever-loving-nutella god, I’m going back.
January 2017. Dangerous Ways finishes (unbeknownst to me) top 10 in the Preditors and Editors Reader’s Choice Poll 2016 for best science fiction/fantasy novel of that year. Whoa. I’ll take it.
I’m at seminar, hardcovers in hand, there’s my hero leaning on a table after being on a panel. I present him with hardcovers of all three of my works to date. His eyes light up…like he’s actually excited about getting my books? Why? What the heck?
But he looks them over, scans the back blurbs, compliments them and the covers.
Class act all the way.
Come on, he could have just gone, “Thanks,” stowed them away, whatever.
He didn’t. He gave them, and me, (not to mention every other person there) all the time in the world. I never got the feeling he was being brusque, or didn’t care. He gave a crap.
He looked excited to check out my stuff.
I tell him again he’s the reason I’m doing and have done this. That his body of work and he himself have and continue to inspire me.
Then, he takes another picture of my work.
Is this for real? Two years in a row now? My hero keeps doing this?
Like…where’d all that crap about never meet your heroes come from?
Because mine kicks butt.
There he is, with my books, and a can of energy drink that pretty much sums up how I see him. Heck, he’s got the hair, have you seen it? Rockstar status indeed.
Some of you are going, so what? It’s just a picture?
No you fools. You silly little misguided mortals. It’s a reminder, a memory that this happened. That something I’m still fighting for, had a breakthrough. That I met my hero, was able to give him my books, that came by way of him because of his inspiration and works, and he took them, he was excited, he took a picture with him. This was real. I felt, for a moment, like his peer. Do you have any idea what that means to a person? Someone, who rather frequently, struggles with the notion that I shouldn’t even be alive. That, what am I fighting and living for?
And then this happens.
One of the people you look up to most in life recognizes you. Acknowledges your effort and dreams, and respects them, acts kindly to you. It’s a freaking sign that, yeah, you and your work matter. They’re real. This moment is and was real. Heck, I still can’t believe it, but dammit, I’ve got the pics to prove it happened.
That I’m doing something, and my hero, well, he took note of that.
Maybe I’m not as far as I’d like to be. But I’m sure as heck making progress, doing the thing, further than I was years before at the signing of Ghost Story. And all because my hero gave me the time of day, and he has to do it all the time for people, and he does.
That’s easier said than done. And, yet somehow, he does make it seem pretty damn easy.
I’m still writing because of him. I’m kicking my own levels of ass and taking some names because of him.
It sounds like hero worship, I get that. But honestly, it’s not. He’s a good freaking person, a role model as a human and, as an author. It’s not because he’s some mythical being of sass, snark, and wit, but just a good man who’s in the career I too want to pursue to the fullest. And, in all that, he gives a crap about people and works to help them. He gives writing advice, personal advice, shares it all.
I’ve been writing for 9 years now-ish, that kind of help and openness isn’t all too common believe it or not.
So, I guess the point of this word vomit blog post is, keep writing, keep doing whatever it is you do and love. Why? Because good things do happen. Heck, great things happen, dreams can and do happen. I’m still chasing the rest of mine, but dammit, look at what’s happened. Some of the biggest parts have already happened. And yeah, thank you Jim Butcher for making my dreams come true.
It does mean the freaking world.
You sir, rock!
Disclaimer: His Jimmery does not read this blog, lol. So feel free to spaz out and squee with me in geekery!
Because, Jim Butcher, I have, and still do look up to you. I am endlessly grateful to you for inspiring me, giving me the confidence and kick in the butt to pursue my dreams. To publish, to try and be somebody as an author and especially in urban fantasy. Thank you so freaking much! I wouldn’t have fans, have a voice, were it not for you.
Here’s that first year of me handing him that paperback. Oh, memories.