Across the White Line

This isn’t my typical fare for those of you expecting something delicious.  I don’t have any monsters in this post, nor will anybody die.  Sadly, there will also be no twist endings, no surprise villains, and I will not be creating a world you’ll want to visit from time to time.  Tonight I will be stepping outside of my comfort zone to talk about something that happened last week.

Life changing?  Sure.  For some, this was an event that might give cause to completely alter one’s life.

Enlightening?  Possibly.  I suppose there is something to take away from all of this. Later that day, my boss says to me; “Do you believe in God?  You should, because he believes in you.”

The day in question was August 4th, the day I nearly died.

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The image you see here is the wreckage of my 104, the truck I had been been entrusted with when I took my job as a driver.

I had just left the quarry in Edgarton KS, headed to a job site less than ten minutes away.  I had a number of routes available to me, three to be exact, of which I had chosen the quickest one; hwy 199, going east.  For those of you without any knowledge of this road, and I expect that number to be in the ‘most of’ category, it’s a narrow two lane jobber.

Normally, I try to follow the highways that have a full, or in the very least, a partial shoulder, in case something should happen.  Today, I thought that I could get a little bit further ahead by shaving a few minutes off of my route.  Three, to be exact.

Somewhere deep down, I knew that I had made a mistake when there was no shoulder on the other side of the line.  Once across, you were in the grass.  These fears came to fruition about a mile in.

Ahead of me, I noticed an extra large pickup coming my way.  More specifically, I noticed that his two rear-axle tires were on my side of the road!  I had only a split second to react and I moved over a little to the right.

Two things immediately happened:

  1. Because I was carrying a full load, and as it always does when I move a little too suddenly, the trailer began to rock from side to side.  When I felt it move, I looked out the side view mirror, wrongfully thinking that it had gone over the white line.
  2. Because I looked out the mirror, as nearly every driver would do at this point, my hand hand followed the movement of my head.

At that moment, what I thought my trailer was doing, was happening to my tractor!

I wouldn’t realize this until later, however, as I swore it was the former of the two that sucked me down.  That being said, there were only six seconds left until –

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I watched in horror as my truck slid from the road.  To my credit, I almost kept her on her wheels!  However, and as I was later informed, I did what eight out of ten drivers would have done in this situation.  I kept fighting to get back on the road.  As such, when I reached that point where only five of my eighteen wheels were still on the pavement, my tractor overturned and slammed into the ground at a little over forty-four miles per hour, give or take.

There were only six, when I felt myself losing control, but they were the longest six seconds of my life.  It was at that moment that I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I had come to the end of my life.

I wish I could say that I said something memorable, like in that movie; “The Perfect Storm.”  Remember when the boat went down and the crewman said something to the effect of; “This is going to be hard on my little boy?”

Or what if I had gone with a witty one-liner?  “Well, this is one way to lay down some rock!”

Unfortunately, the sad truth of it is I went with; “No.  No, no, no, NO – OH FUCK!”

That’s when the ground exploded into the cab.  That, and about two feet of the rock I was carrying that day.  When the dust settled, I didn’t have time to think about how I was alive.  I looked down into what was left of the passenger area of the cab and tried to make sense of it.  It looked, and I would later discover this to be true from the outside as well, as if it had been crumpled up like a wad of paper.

I heard steam.  I could hear something leaking.  I looked out the hole where the windshield had been and saw a pool of liquid forming on the ground.

The dust settled, and I burst into action.  I had seen the movies enough times to know what happens next.  Directing my attention to my side, I located my seat belt release and fought for escape.

*CLICK*

Success!  I was free!

The next two or three seconds are a blur, nearly lost in my memory, but I somehow birthed from that unholy compartment and back into the world.

I remember pulling myself to my feet and charging away from the truck as if the hounds of hell were at my heels!  What a sight I must have been to the bystander who’d stopped to help.  THIS man, bloodied, and wearing a terrified expression, pulls himself from the wreckage and charges as if possessed!

I remember the expression of shock/amazement/fear on his face as I waved him away.

“Got. To. Get. Back,” I shouted between gasps.

I was struggling for air.  I was also trembling from the adrenaline rushing through my veins.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I had sustained some damage to my left shoulder.  Maybe in the impact of the crash?  Or, maybe pulling myself out?  Who’s to say…  As I write this, pain is consuming every nerve ending in what I believe is the rotator cup area, and I’m wondering just how much more I can pound out on my keyboard before I’m happy with the results.

And actually, there’s little else to tell, from then on, that I feel is relevant to this post.

The bystander allowed me to call my work, 911, and my wife before leaving.

The person who caused my reaction, the one driving the extra-large truck, never stopped, and hasn’t been heard from since.

And, I have been on the mend now for over a week.

I don’t know how long this place in my life will hang on to me, I’m hoping to have some good news after my next doctor’s visit, but I do know that the wounds will take longer to heal in heart, than just in body.

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Amazing that these are the worst of the abrasions I suffered!   Not pictured were the scrapes, cuts, and scratches on my arms and legs, probably earned during the escape.  And, obviously, we can’t see the damage done inside my shoulder, but I assure you the bruises forming there are telling a story of their own.

Strangely, this hasn’t changed my outlook on the future.

Once I am able, I plan to get in another truck, back at it.  Since this job is seasonal, and most of the work is in the warm months of the year, I anticipate (as well as look forward to) the remaining months to be used writing my books.  Of course, I work on them during the week when I can, but some nights I don’t get home until well after dark.

I guess I am sharing this with you, my friends and avid readers, because I wanted to show you what was on the other side of the computer screen.  I don’t do this often, for I am not always fond of what I, myself, find there, but this time I felt compelled to.  As I mentioned before, I find myself heavy of heart as of late, but I’ve heard that sometimes it’s best to just tell the tale.

104 has been laid to rest this week, but I have not.

  • R. Richardsson

Jibber-Jabber

We all feel it from time to time.  It hits us when we least expect it, when we think we’re at our best or most comfortable.  Our will to continue slowly drains until all that is left is an empty pit of despair.  We wonder why we are doing this.  Why did we even begin at all?  Is it worth it?  Has it been worth it?

There are literally millions of us peddling our work into the digital world.  As readers, we know that there are quite a few lemons out there.  We’ve tried a new body of work, only to find out that the author writes as if English were a second, or (shudders) third language.  Maybe that was the pivotal point in our blind purchasing?  Angry, we return to the point of purchase, leave a scathing review and return to that which we know.

Sometimes we come back.  (See what I did there?)  If there is one thing that remains true across the board, is that readers are HUNGRY for something new.  We want to be entertained.  We want to be informed, but most of all, we want to FEEL.  If we can not believe in the story, if the words are too broken to make sense of, we abandon it for greener pastures.

But what does this have to do with writing, you ask?

Everything, my dear reader.  Everything.

Because as writers, we are investing everything not only into our stories, but into our readers as well.  All of our work goes into the making of the these new worlds, where characters embark on glorious quests for either noble or nefarious reasons.

Whatever your pleasure, right?

We build not only the setting, but the individuals that populate it.  Once this process completes, we, or should I say; “Most of us”, return to the beginning to give it the critical care it needs.

We labor…  No, that isn’t right.  We SLAVE over the words, again and again, until they are just right.  We pass our work onto editors, beta readers, friends and family in order to discover if what we have put into it is perfect.  Our scrutiny even goes so far as to the art that graces its cover.  Some few are gifted enough to be able to write well AND create a beautiful cover image.  Most of us, however, must put our trust into someone who is hopefully talented enough to realize the vision we pitch them.

(Fortunately, I’m lucky enough to have that going for me!)

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself just a little.  You see, before the cover image; before we let our work leave our hands, there’s an impasse at which we must make a very critical decision.

  • Do we start sending our work off to established publishing companies in the hope of becoming a client?
  • Do we dig our heels in and take the necessary steps to publish our book ourselves?
  • Or, do we do a combination of both?

Because, that’s totally important.  What’s more prestigious than having a publisher do the work for you?  You’ve made it Buster.  All you have to do now is write the books while they take care of the rest.  Of course, your book may not be the same as it was when it left your hands.  There may be changes made to meet THEIR vision of what it should be.  They may want YOU to do the changes yourself before they accept it!  You may have written a perfect body of work, only to find out that their editors corrected a line with…wait for it…an error!  You may find that the cover doesn’t make sense with your vision, or maybe they want to rename it to something else.

Who the hell wants to dick around with all that?  You’re living your dream, writing is your career, but you have very little control over what happens once it’s out of your hands.  And let’s not even go into royalties, appearances, etc.  You have to REALLY get someone’s attention if you want to break out of the crowd.

So forget about all that then.  Do it on your own, that’s the way to go!  Sure!

And now we’re back to where I was before I got ahead of myself.  We’ve written our work, poured our heart and soul into the story, handed it off to privately chosen test subjects, designed or commissioned a cover and then…what?  Why, we now have to find the right publishing platform!  Amazon/Createspace, Nook Press, Smashwords, Lulu…  The list goes on.  As independent writers, we have our favorites.  What matters is that we make it available to the readers!

We’ve finished editing our book, but now we have to format it for print!  If you haven’t done this before, it’s something that varies with each platform.  Smashwords, if I remember correctly, calls their formatting process ‘Through The Meat Grinder’, or something very similar and it’s a very fitting term.  You can spend an entire afternoon just trying to make your work look perfect for e-devices, PDF and Print formatting!

There’s also pricing to consider, blurbs and book descriptions…it all has to be perfect for not only your work, but for the market you’re entering it in.  You have to consider the competition you’re against.  (Remember, I did say MILLIONS of writers?)

Or, why not do a combination of both?  Write stories to publish on your own AND find a publisher for other original works as well?  You have time for that, right?  Geezus Pleezus, may I borrow your cape?

Not all of us are superheroes.  We don’t all have the same mission in life; “Wake Up!  Don Costume!  Save The World, One Book at a Time!”

No, we’re people, just like you.  Some of us have taken the martyr’s path to writing, committing our entire life to our passion.  We work from coffee shops, diners, or from (insert other minimum wage job title here) just so we can focus on what’s important.  We have one room apartments.  Sometimes we have a pet to accompany us, but we have chosen our path.  We are going to succeed and you can be damned if you say otherwise!

I often think about these people.  Sometimes I wish I was one of them, with only the words as my companions.  I would love to be able to stare into a blank page (or .docx) and watch as a never-ending parade of characters appeared before me, each coming to life as a living, breathing story!  Not that I don’t do this already, mind you!  I’m thinking of an alternate reality where I didn’t have to balance my passion against my responsibilities!

But it’s also a frightening venture and I wonder if I even have enough of ‘it’ to have been able to do that.  If I had made different decisions with my life, would I now be living a meager to moderate lifestyle as an author?  Or, would I have faded into the cracks of society/blogosphere/etc.?

We’re people just like you.

Some of us have families, and while writing may be our passion, it’s comes last to our responsibilities.

Take a brief look into my life, for example.  I’m a father of four beauties, all of whom I’m proud of in some way or another.  They love and support me in my ventures, and in return, I give them the love, attention and childhoods they deserve.  Uh…did I just say; “…in return…”?  What I actually meant was that they come first!

I have to write in whatever spare time I can scrape off of the clock, be it during nap-times, as they’re doing chores or on my days off.  How does having a day off help, you may wonder?  Oh.  I guess I should have covered that part of it.  You see, I’m employed part-time during the graveyard shift, working for a minimum of thirty-two hours per week.

Writers come in many flavors, much like our companion drink, coffee.  Some of us are really gifted!  Can you believe it?

Maybe, or maybe not, depending on your standing as a reader.  If you’ve turned away from the indie writing crowd, you’ll never know that, will you?

On the other hand, there are the breed of readers who ONLY read indie work. There’s a real market out there for stories so delectable to the palate that a reader can get lost for weeks, consuming millions or words as they desperately continue to escape from whatever reality they live in!

Writers, such as myself, realize that we have to tap into that market.  We STRIVE to be better at what we do, with everything we create.  We join support groups, marketing groups, social networks, forums and more in an effort to get our brand known. Minutes turn into hours better used for creating new stories, as we cast our metaphorical line into the pool, hoping that we have chosen the right hook for the task at hand.  Sometimes it pays off, others, well, let me just ask you this; “Have you ever gone mushroom hunting for Morels?”

Seriously.  Try it sometime.  It’s a lot like that.  Sometimes you could spend days and find not a single one, but when it hits…  Oh boy, when it rains, it pours!

Of course, I wouldn’t know.  I have yet to find a Morel this year.

We’re people just like you.

We laugh, we cry.  We eat, we sleep, (sometimes) and we long for companionship. Not in the physical sense, but in that Author/Reader bond that is generated from our efforts.

We have a tough hill to climb.  We feel like Sisyphus, eternally pushing a boulder up a hill it will never crest.  No, I won’t say our work is tougher that yours, because we all bear our Cross differently, but I what I hope I can safely impart is that we tend to FALL a lot farther when the boulder tumbles down.

Here we stand, holding the fruit of our labors.  An entire world literally rests in the palms of our hands.  Thousands of hours have gone into its creation and we face a wall of rejection so high that only the strongest will climb over.  There are so many of us (WRITERS) that each one of us is as important as the sperm to your (READERS) egg.  In order to create that symbiotic relationship, we have to be the strongest, the most impressive, the prettiest specimen you’ve come across in a while.  (No pun intended.)

Those are simply the odds.

We may craft stories you’ll remember years from now, but none of it matters if we can’t draw your attention long enough to get you hooked.

The minutes become hours.  Hours transform into days and days to months, but still we persist.  We reinvent the way we present our work to you.  We recreate OURSELVES, preening our presence in the vain hope that we’ll be able to create that bond we are so hungry for.

We want it for different reasons.  Sadly, many are in it only for the money. They think to themselves; “Book plus internet equals $$$,” and go from there.  The virtual bookshelves are polluted with those who dabble to this fancy.

We have a story to tell.  We have an idea for a story so powerful that we can’t help but to share it.  Many times you can find a good story from this pool, but there are just as many bad as there are good and the great ones are few and far between.

Fewer still are slaves to our passion.  We desire nothing more than to write, and write we shall.  We have our own office, or office space, where we can focus solely on the worlds that are clawing their way out of our psyche.  Sometimes they come screaming into our consciousness with their asses on fire and we find ourselves begging our fingers to keep up with the words as they tumble from us, but most times we are just driven simply to continue.  It has to be done, whether we want to or not and we often lose track of everything until it is.

So, when we’ve finally come to stop at the bottom of that hill, when we’ve careened down that great wall, what is there left for us?  We’ve given it our all, only to be beat out by those who have a bigger following.  Our work has been denied by the countless publishers, overlooked by the millions of readers and sits, covered in dust, whether virtual or physical, as we wallow in angst and despair.

What was it all for?  Why was I compelled to do this?  Oh my GOD, I have to start over because (…)!!!

A great majority never make it back from this, survival of the fittest and all that, but those who are meant to be great will and often do.  It’s how we come back that matters.  How have we learned from our mistakes?  Can we continue from here, or do we take a different approach?

I think about a lot of things while at work, most of all, how tough this has been on my family.  This is what I desire to do DURING my life, not at the end of it.  I don’t want to work in a blue-collar job, on the graveyard shift, where I will miss out on most of my children’s lives.  I don’t want my marriage to suffer for the next (…) year(s) as I try to maintain the sales that I DO have.

I’m in the process of finishing my third book, a title which will conclude a vampire hunter trilogy.  I’m ALSO writing a collection of short stories I hope to release by mid-summer!  Do you think that’s enough, on top of working nights and being Mr. Mom?

I’m also a contracted webpage designer.

I’m also Ghostwriting on the side.

And, I’m currently uploading free stuff to this website as a way for readers to get to know my work.

I’m a slave to my passion of storytelling, and sometimes it’s difficult to think about anything other than whatever story is currently trying to project vomit itself onto my screen.  So when I fall, you better believe it’s with enough force to rumble a neighboring city!

Who’s there to catch us when we fall?  Friends?  Family?  What if we have no friends?  What do we do when our family doesn’t support us?  How far do we fall before we are able to pick ourselves up?

As far as we need to.  It’s no more difficult than that.  Once we’ve come to a stop, it’s up to us as to whether we get run over by the boulder or roll out-of-the-way.

Wanna know a secret?

It’s always like this for the writer!

For us, the top is very much like that top of that hill in the Sisyphus analogy.  We’re forever ‘just’ reaching the top, only to have the boulder come crashing back down. Some are able to hold that boulder there for longer than other, but once the work starts anew, it comes a-tumblin, tumbling.

Wanna know something else?  Writing’s a LONELY job.  It’s a TIME-CONSUMING job.  We tend to disappear for months off the grid, and unless we have family there to coax us out into the open every now and again, you might find yourself wondering; “What ever happened to so-and-so?”

What indeed.