Featured in New Book “Reporting for Duty”
Many of my family, friends, colleagues, and others have been following the story of Freedom and I. Freedom is my service dog, who I got through K9s For Warriors, following a suggestion from a friend (the Executive Director for Veterans 360).
I’ve written a couple of blog posts, and we’ve been interviewed by a few magazines…but now we’re going to be a chapter in a book that was written by Tracy (TJ) Libby, called Reporting for Duty (Wounded Warriors and Their Canine Heroes), by I-5 Publishing. We’re pretty excited about that. Or maybe Freedom was excited by the treat I gave him when I found out…
This is another great venue to get the word out, and maybe save a life, out of the approximately 22 Veterans and Servicemembers who take their lives each day (one every 65 minutes on average).
If you haven’t seen the full Jim and Freedom story to date, here’s a recap!
Getting Real About PTS And TBI
(Let's get real about Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury)
1/5/2015 – by Jim Kuiken (Getting ready to meet Freedom)
(A Personal Journey in Surviving PTS and TBI)
2/17/2015 – by Jim Kuiken (After returning home with Freedom)
I Am NOT a VICTIM!
(What is Your Reality…Warrior Mindset or Popular Characterization?)
4/28/2015 – by Jim Kuiken (After seeing the “looks” when in public with Freedom)
How Did a Black Lab Help Save a Combat Veteran's Life?
4/15/2015 – People Magazine (PeoplePets.com) Article on Freedom and me.
Spared From the Kennel: These Rescue Dogs Now Help Vets
5/09/2015 – Military Times Magazine Article featuring Freedom and me.
Armed Forces Day Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetary
5/16/2015 – Freedom and I, along with the senior Enlisted leader of each Service within the Armed Forces, honoring all the armed services of the United States.
Jim and Freedom on the Gretchen Carlson show on Fox News
5/19/2015 – Freedom and I on “The Real Story” with Gretchen Carlson.
K9 Protocol – What Do You Do?
(New Shoes) 6/15/2015 – *Guest blog post* by William “Rick” Smith
(What do you do when you see someone with a Service Dog?)
And now…we’re in a book! Reporting for Duty (Wounded Warriors and Their Canine Heroes) should be coming out in October of this year (2015), and if you’d like to check it out, or even pre-order it, you can by clicking here!
All of this is about spreading the word, and saving lives. You’ll see more of us as we continue to work toward that goal, and if you’d like to help, please forward this on and/or get involved in a Veteran service or shelter animal rescue organization that best fits you. You can make a difference!
Let’s Talk Win – Win…
What exactly does that mean? “Win-Win”…a slick catchphrase to help you take advantage of someone and get business? Not if you’re smart – or a decent human being.
And what are your best assets and opportunities? Your family, friends and colleagues. So how do you “leverage” them? Again, not by taking advantage of them or “using” them – if you’re smart, or a decent human being.
The best option to develop a win-win solution to a business (or personal) goal is to work with someone, making sure both (or all) of you benefit from whatever it is that you’re doing.
Here’s an example of a win-win solution where each party “wins”, and no one loses. If you’ve followed my blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, or any of the other venues, you’ve heard about one of my good friends, Scott Attenborough. Yes, I know…he normally does the Friday blog post, but he’s off for some “well-deserved time” on some exotic beach somewhere…
I first met Scott a few years ago when I was the Vice Chairman of the Board for Veterans 360, an organization dedicated to helping post 9-11 veterans who suffer with PTS(D) and/or TBI. Besides being a fellow Board Member, Scott, through his company Content Capital LLC, is the webmaster, social media consultant / manager, etc. for Vets360, as well as a couple of other veteran service organizations – and has several other clients across the globe. Both of us being former Marines (he was a Drill Instructor…), as well as people who worked with veteran service non-profit organizations, we hit it off right away.
After I closed down both of my companies, completed my Congressional campaign, and settled down into my new life as a writer, speaker and advocate, I needed a website and a good social media campaign to get the word out. Naturally I thought of Scott (he had helped with my previous websites), but now that I was fully retired, I didn’t want to spend the money it would take to do all that.
Scott has a thriving business, and wanted to help me out – but of course, should be compensated for any work he does through his company. I would not ask anyone to step up and do the amount of work I needed done “pro bono”. That would be taking advantage of our friendship.
After several phone calls and discussions, we came up with a solution that benefits us both. Scott developed and manages the JamesKuiken.com website, and advises and helps with all the various social media efforts – which are numerous to say the least. We are on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, RallyPoint, Goodreads, and are working on some photo sharing sites, probably through something like Pintrest, Instagram and / or Flickr.
As an internationally recognized expert on content development, networking, and other related subjects, Scott also advises me on the strategy of networking and social media, as well as other marketing and publishing strategies and plans. All of this is done with little or no up-front cost to me.
That’s my “win”. What does he get out of it? Besides the pleasure of associating with me…
As a part of the package we developed together, he not only puts his company’s logo and link on the JamesKuiken.com website, but he has a regular platform for a weekly blog post, not on his own website, but on another one (mine) with an entirely different set of readers – thereby expanding his exposure. Also, as with all of my posts, his are also shared on all of my social media venues, also with an expanded readership, driving traffic back to his site. He’s able to reach a few thousand folks that he normally wouldn’t reach just by leveraging the exposure gained by posting on all of my venues.
That, along with some other tangible and intangible advantages, is his “win”.
We both win by helping each other out, growing and maintaining our mutual business interests by ensuring that the other person benefits from that partnership…and the big win…growing our friendship. A real “Win-Win-Win”.
Over the span of my career(s) for the last 40+ years, I’ve always made it a priority to help others as best as I can, hoping for their good fortune and success. You’d be surprised how many times that comes back around full-circle…
One of the “Forbidden” Subjects…
What are the things that they always say you shouldn’t talk about at work, in “polite” society, etc? Religion and Politics.
I agree about at work, but absolutely disagree in social situations. I remember when I was going through the Army’s Special Forces “Q” Course…the course that soldiers go through to earn their Green Beret (and folks like me, Marine Force Recon guys, go through as well…we just don’t get to wear that spiffy green beret…).
One of my classmates – the Executive Officer for our “A Team” – was a foreign officer, HRH Prince Fahad bin Turki bin Abdulaziz, a Captain from the Saudi Royal Guard Regiment. As a Marine Gunnery Sergeant, I was the Team Sergeant. We became good friends while going through that grueling six month course, and many times I would watch him pray…he was Muslim. We ended up sharing a “pup tent” (two man sleeping shelter, so close you were only inches away from the other person), and talked a lot during those months. I asked him about his prayers, what the different motions he went through meant, how he prayed and what he prayed for. It’s surprising how close you get with someone, sharing everything (even my morning café mocha…made from instant coffee, sugar packet, creamer packet, and coco packet from the MRE pre-packaged meals, mixed into a canteen cup of boiling water at 4:30 in the morning). Our discussions about the differences in our cultures only made us closer… If you respect each other’s cultures and religions, it can be a great way of finding out just how similar you actually are to each other.
But Politics tends to be something that can completely divide folks. So let me be clear. I don’t care one whit what your political leanings are. I’m not going to call the über-liberals socialists and communists, and I’m not going to call the ultra-conservatives a bunch of fascists and oligarchs. This isn’t about where you fall in the spectrum of political philosophy.
I’m talking about politics. How it works, what you (if you are a Citizen of the United States) should know and do, and what any Citizen should be concerned about as we move into this election cycle – to include a Presidential election year. If you’re not a US Citizen, this doesn’t concern you. You might be concerned about what is happening, but you have no say – since it is illegal for you to vote. If you want to vote, that’s simple. Become a US Citizen.
I know some of you are saying, what the heck to you know? What gives you the right to talk about this, and why should I listen to you? Because I, like millions before me, have fought and put my life on the line to protect your right to be able to choose, through the democratic process, who you want to represent you in the people’s government. Besides fighting for that right, I’ve cared enough to step up and put my money where my mouth is by voting in every election since 1972 when I became eligible to vote, and also, because I believed strongly enough that I even ran for elective office (U.S. Congress, TX-15), to help preserve our way of life, and change those things that I felt needed change to benefit others besides just myself.
My mom, one of my sisters and my daughter tend to lean left (some much more than others). My dad, one of my sisters, I, my two sons, (and maybe my brother…but he doesn’t let much out of the bag) tend to lean right (some much more than the others). I have nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws, etc., etc…who all tend to lean in surprisingly (or more likely, not very surprisingly) similar directions as their immediate families and parents do. But guess what? WE ALL CARE! That’s what’s great. I LOVE hearing all my family debate back and forth, disagree (generally civilly), and espouse their opinions. Many of those opinions cancel each other out at the ballot box…but they vote!
So what am I saying here? Did I, and all those other millions fight for your right to believe what we believe? As a law enforcement officer (state, local and federal), did I and all those others uphold the law for those who believed like we do? Not hardly. It was for you to be able to be free to choose, to think, to vote. If you believe strongly enough, and think you can make a difference, you also have the option of stepping up and running for any office you qualify for, like I did.
What I’m saying is educate yourselves about the people running, the issues you believe in, and do something about it. I was there in Baghdad when all of the populace was running around with purple fingers, having just voted, despite the death threats and bombings. I know what it is to not be able to participate in free and open (civil) discussions, or to be able to have any say in your own government. You have a gift that has been given to you by centuries of sacrifice. Take a few moments to find out about the stances of the people running for office, what they stand for, what kind of person they are, and what you want for your future.
If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a quick “I Side With” quiz that can help you see where you stand in comparison with the current Presidential Candidates. Enjoy it – you might even be surprised…I was!
Bank Image Copyright: xtockimages / 123RF Stock Photo
The Leader’s Lesson
by Clint Goodwin
The first thing I think of about war is how a man discovers his ability to lead under deadly circumstances. No reasonable thinking, mature adult can truly understand war nor their ability to cope until they experience the last breath taken by themselves or their brothers in arms. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, I was ordered to a leadership role in-country. I willingly accepted the assignment with no break in thought, while living in a place that combat brethren in-country called “Sanctuary Ops.” A term not meant to be disrespectful to those serving countless hours in agency cubicles and offices supporting the war, however, there is a huge difference when one can’t take a federal holiday off from their weapon and boots in the sandbox.
How does one know if they can lead in war? You don’t know until you are there. The books talk to the decisions, but not to the person’s DNA. I can attest that one does not know how they will react when presented with multi-dimensional situations where the bullets, shrapnel, smell, and fear are real to the senses. For me, I had legitimate insights. My brother and I had the benefit of growing up with two “men” who fought during two wars; WWI and WWII. I always complained about the Viet Cong during the ‘60s. I told my father I wanted to go to Vietnam. Using a stern voice and serious piercing blues eyes, that man looked at me and said, “Son, you have no idea what you are talking about.” Thirty years later, I experienced what he was talking about. While in Iraq, I witnessed the horrific, insane, unpredictable nature of a mankind that rears its ugly head when life and death is at stake.
One death of many came. The poignant moment I will never forget, amongst the countless unwanted memories stuck in the recesses of my mind, is the day my friend did not show up for lunch. I appreciated the friendship, camaraderie, and trust I had with Colonel L. One late morning, I asked Colonel T, with a smile of my face, “Where is my battle buddie?” His eyes changed to sorrow as he calmly said, “Clint, he is dead.” Three days later we were having a closed circuit video feed with my friend’s wife and two teenage sons. I can’t count the tears that fell that day. My heart hardened. I walked in the desert searching for an answer. I looked up and said to my father, “Why? I now understand you.” I did not know what I was talking about then, but now I know one thing, there is no damn good reason for one drop of American blood to fall on foreign soil not willing to sustain the soles of our boots. No one wants war. I have known death and wish to never see war again. I leave with one comment. A young sailor crossed my path in Norfolk. He saluted me and said, “Excuse me, sir. Did you just get back from Iraq?” I said, “I did son.” In a higher pitched voice, the young sailor said, “I just got back from Kuwait, I had a great tour.” I looked down at him and denied the anger welling up in my chest. I calmly replied, “There is no damn good thing about Americans dying over there. None. Remember that son.” The sailor went his way and I went mine.
Clint Goodwin served in United States Navy, both active and reserve, for over thirty years. He enlisted in the navy as Seaman Recruit; he retired as a Commander. Clint served during the Cold War, Desert Storm, Balkans, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, with one tour in Iraq as senior naval officer. Clint served in both operational and intelligence capacities in the Navy, and now with the US Department of Homeland Security, and is a writer and published author. He lives in Virginia with his wife Karen and two dogs, Yank and Dixie.
Are You Kidding Me?
In the case of Firefighters, the answer is frequently “well…yeah…”
Firefighting is tough, physical, dangerous work. I can remember those days very well, as I mentioned in my previous posts – ‘What it Takes’, and ‘The Brother/Sisterhood’.
But let’s not make the mistake of thinking they are a bunch of guys/gals that are dead serious, no nonsense folks all the time. Spend any time whatsoever in or around a fire house, and sooner than later you’ll see it. Firefighters are some of the bravest, most dedicated life-savers on the planet. But they’re also some of the funniest, prank-pulling, jokesters you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting (or of being the butt of the prank/jokes for).
When I worked for the Boise City Fire Department, one of my Captains was Harold (I’ll leave out his last name…). He was a hard-working serious guy, which made it even more fun. Sometimes it was simple. In most fire houses, everyone takes turns cooking the meal, cleaning up, washing dishes, etc. It was Capt. Harold’s turn to do dishes, so while he was washing, someone else was clearing the table and scraping the dishes, then handing them to him to wash. Someone else would rinse and dry, and someone else would put them away – an assembly line. What Capt. Harold didn’t know was that we had actually formed a circle, and were passing the clean dishes back around to the start, and back into the washing line. He washed every single dish in that fire house at least 5 or 6 times before he spotted us, and went stomping off to his office trailing colorful language at us.
Sometimes it was a bit more complex. At night, everyone would go up to the bunkroom and go to bed, and many nights an alarm would go off. Everyone would jump out of bed, slide down the brass pole, hurry over to their “turn-out gear”, and slip into it. What that means is that before going to bed, you’d put all your gear on. Nomex® (fire resistant) firefighter’s trousers with suspenders, boots (trousers on the outside of the boots), Nomex® firefighter’s coat, and air tank over the coat. You would then back up to the wall, clipping the air tank into the holder on the wall, and slip out of your coat, leaving it hanging inside the straps of the air tank. Then, without moving, take the suspenders off your shoulders, and slide your trousers down around the boots, then step out of the boots, leaving everything there against the wall. This allowed you to hurry over to your gear, turn with your back to the wall, step into the boots, pull the suspenders up over your shoulders (which pulled your trousers up), slip your arms into the coat (which was inside the air tank straps), and walk away from the wall, fully clothed in about two to three seconds. You would then fasten the clips on the front of your coat as you hurried to the truck, put on your helmet (which you had left in your spot on the truck), and pull out of the station in thirty seconds to a minute after the alarms had gone off.
I know that’s a long explanation, but you need to be able to visualize the process, and the speed of the process to be able to understand what happened to Capt. Harold next…
Two of the Captain’s boys also worked as firefighters in that same station, and were instrumental in setting this one up. While they sat around the TV in the breakroom, just before bed time, another firefighter and I slipped out to the “engine room” where the trucks were, and all the turn-out gear was set up. We poured lime jello, ice, and sardines into his boots, about to the top of the “foot” area in the boots – then got the heck out of there before we were spotted. The ice helped the jello set up (harden), with the sardines imbedded in the jello.
Sure as clockwork, we got an alarm that night – and it was a big one. As we were stepping into our boots, so was Capt. Harold. As his feet slid into the boots, the expression on his face was priceless…but he couldn’t stop. As soon as he was suited up, he ran over to the Fire Engine, and we were off. We ended up out there fighting a structure fire for almost four hours, and then returned to the station just before shift change.
When he pulled off the boots, his feet were dyed green, and smelled like sardines. Since no one in the house would admit to anything, we all ended up getting extra hose drills (very physical workout) for a week.
If you have the pleasure of knowing a firefighter, they can be some of the most caring individuals on earth…just don’t spend too much time in the firehouse…
William “Rick” Smith
Let me try to tell you what using a service dog has been like for me, using as an analogy something most everybody uses: shoes. You have a pair of shoes. They are the first shoes you have ever found that fit like they were made just for your feet and are really nice-looking shoes. In these shoes, you can go about your whole day and your feet and back and legs feel great and never get tired. In these shoes, you can conquer the whole damn world.
There’s just one problem with the shoes. They attract attention. The first couple of times people smiled at you and said “Nice shoes” it was pretty flattering, but then things started getting a little out of hand. People would stare at your shoes, wherever you went, in a way that made you feel like you were nothing but a way of displaying your wonderful shoes. People would approach you while you’re just trying to buy some milk at the store and get out and go home and expect you to tell them where you got the shoes, how the shoes are working out for you, and then listen to them tell you all about their favorite shoes. Disturbingly, some people will ask to touch your shoes. Sometimes they are still standing when they ask, but other times they are asking as they kneel down and reach out for your shoes. REALLY disturbingly, some people just lunge for your shoes without even asking. Once or twice, you’ve nearly tripped and fallen because someone was grabbing for your shoes. When you act alarmed that these people are trying to take your shoes away while you’re walking in them, people respond by being defensive and angry. Why would you be wearing such wonderful shoes, after all, if you didn’t want to let people touch them or you didn’t want to talk about them? Can’t you see how much they want to touch your fabulous shoes? Why are you being so mean by denying them something they want so much?
When you’re out and about, nobody talks to you about anything but your shoes. You might be in a class you’re really excited to take, because you want to meet other people who are interested in the subject matter, but the other students and the instructor just want to talk to you about your shoes. Even worse, they assume that your shoes are all you know about and act totally surprised when you speak up about things that are not shoe-related. When you ask for help in a shop, the person you’re talking to addresses your shoes rather than you. People say “good morning” to your shoes. People assume that you won’t be able to do things because you won’t want to get your shoes dirty, or you can’t do them because your shoes are not their idea of appropriate footwear for the activity, and they inform you of these exclusions as if you’re supposed to be grateful.
What you’re actually grateful for is the one or two people every day who treat you just like your shoes are nothing remarkable. You come to cherish the people who act as if they don’t even see your shoes. And despite the fact that you love your wonderful shoes, you begin to deeply, deeply wish you could find another pair of shoes that did not attract all this attention that worked for you, but no matter how many pairs you try on, you never can. You find some shoes that are kinda workable and sometimes you wear those just to avoid all the problems with your favorite shoes, even though you know that by the end of the day your feet and legs and back will be aching. After enough painful days, you start feeling pretty bitter towards all the people who make your life so much harder when you’re wearing your favorite shoes, because if they’d just be polite, it would make such a huge difference to you.
So what should you do when you see wonderful shoes / a service dog and its handler? The answer is easy: ignore the dog. No matter how much you want to talk about the dog, touch the dog, ask the dog’s handler questions about the dog, tell the dog’s handler about your own dog - don’t. Treat the handler exactly like you are busy treating all the people in the world who do not have dogs with them. If you have a customer service job, or you actually need (not just want) to approach the dog handler, speak to the person, not the dog. Ignore the dog, no matter how hard it is for you. A service dog is not “just” a dog, to its handler it’s a trusted partner and a vital part of what its handler needs to get through the world. Remember too that service dog handlers deserve privacy about their medical issues just as much as everyone else, and asking “Why do you have the dog?” or “what does the dog do for you?” is exactly like asking “So, will you tell me about all your medical problems?” (i.e. none of your business).
The people I am going to happily let pet my service dog are the ones who see me and the dog when the dog is off-duty. In other words, my friends and family, people who might come to my house and hang out, or at whose house I might hang out long enough to ask if I could let my dog be off work, as it were. These are people I know pretty well, obviously. If you’re not one of those people, if you only see me and my dog in public situations, then I’m sorry but no. You can’t pet my dog, and you need to be OK with that.
Writers write because they’re writers. That is what they do. Nothing would get published if writers didn’t knuckle down and do the work. As a writer, you spend so much time behind the keyboard that you can easily neglect what happens when your book is ready to sent out into the world. If you spend too much time on marketing and not enough time on writing you won’t finish that masterpiece.
You certainly want readers. It is not just nice but it’s essential that you make a profit on the words that you write. Unless you are retired, independently wealthy, or have won the lottery you trade talent for trinkets. Some things you do for the greater good of the planet but for the most part if you want to put food in your mouth and a roof over your head you need to make a profit from you performance.
Marketing and promoting a piece of work is almost or often even equally as important as the work itself. Many times writers neglect the marketing challenge because they’re too busy putting words on paper, following their muse, or battling their own brand of resistance (resistance is the reason many books don’t get written, paintings don’t get painted, and businesses don’t get off the ground - Steven Pressfield)
It’s your work and as an extension of that work it's you that is the commodity being traded for trinkets in the wild and wonderful world. That’s why being a successful independent writer is so hard. It’s also why most writers are not really good marketers of their own work. They are too closely attached. Some do a brilliant job but most don’t. I suppose the 80 - 20 rule could be applied here. With writers, only 20 percent will be successful at marketing their book and the other 80 percent will not take the marketing of their book seriously enough and therefore fail to make a decent living at their craft. Think “Starving Artist”.
Traditionally, publishers would normally take on the challenge of marketing your book. You would send your book to publisher after publisher and hope, plead, and pray that one of those benevolent beings would take up the challenge of editing, printing, and marketing your work. There are some advantages to that approach and some disadvantages.
One of the advantages is that the writer doesn’t need to think about marketing their work. The extent of the writer’s marketing abilities only needs to be the ability to send the manuscript in the right format to the critical eye of the publisher and will their work to be published. If your work is deemed satisfactory by the elite publisher your book may be taken to press. Then the full force of the publishing machine would be pointed in your direction to make sure your writing met that particular publishers standards and the book gets into print.
The disadvantage is the editing and re-writing process could take a very long time and the work you submitted in the beginning may not be the work that's published in the end. There are many fingers that poke in that pot when it gets absorbed into the machine.
You may get your book into print with a traditional publisher but that big marketing machine doesn’t really get engaged for the unknown author. Maybe it would be for J K Rowling, Salman Rushdie, or Phillip Roth, but for a relatively unknown writer you support may be less than stellar.
All of the things that a publisher would have done to get your book distributed, marketed, advertised, and promoted to the public now falls on the author. As I said here in the beginning the writer usually spends most of their time writing and not marketing. That’s why, at times, it's good for a writer to get partnered with a book marketer.
Book marketing expertise can delivered as a consultative service, hired out to the consultant, or can be a combination of the two.
If, as a writer, you want to be the driving force in your book marketing program you may still want to consider hiring a marketing consultant to help you out. A consultative book marketer will help guide a writer through the tasks but not actually do them for the writer. They can even provide the writer with a project plan to get their production and promotion underway. The marketer will know how to get the product out the door and tell the public about it and they can teach you the ropes.
You can hire book marketer to take care of organizing and engaging the right people to get your book properly edited, produced, marketed, and promoted. Of course some level of effort will be required by the writer but far less than going it alone.
Then, of course, the writer can decide to take some tasks on for themselves and hire out some of the tasks to the book marketing consultant. Remember that your consultant needs to eat too and they can provide you with a very valuable service.
A partnership is often a great way to get the goods out the door. You can consider it a cross between traditional publishing and self / indie publishing. Jim and I have partnered in this effort. Jim is the writer and I am the marketer. We are partnered to help each other succeed. I hope you can find the right partner for your project as well.
Image Copyright: vectorgraphics2014 / 123RF Stock Photo
Both Sides of the Bars
In January of 1977, I transitioned from Active Duty in the Marine Corps to the Reserve. I didn’t want to leave the Marines, but I was sick of all the drugs and racial tensions I saw in society and decided to become a Cop so I could help stop the violence and protect the victims.
As with all the best laid plans of mice and men, I ended up in a series of dead-end jobs. They were lost as soon as they were found. It was due, in large part, to my inability to adjust back to civilian life at that time. Thank goodness for my grandfather. He was a big guy in the Idaho State government at the time. He pointed me to the Idaho State Department of Corrections where they were hiring Correctional Officers (aka, prison “guards”). I figured it would be a good first step into law enforcement. With my military background and clean record, I knew that I was a good candidate.
I drove the 20 miles from Boise to the prison out in the middle of nowhere to apply. When they let me in, I went over to the front desk, and I couldn't believe who was sitting there. It was my good buddy Chuck from the Marine Corps. He looked up when I walked in and said “What in the #€££ are you doing here?” The last time I’d seen him was at Camp Pendleton when he got out of the Marines a year or so before. I first met Chuck when he was an MP (Military Police) in the Corps. He had tried to arrest me for surfing on a restricted beach. He couldn’t get me to come in to shore to be arrested (although we did engage in a lively verbal exchange)… I’ll save that story for later. We ended up being friends when we ran into each other a few months later (and he was no longer an MP).
I told Chuck I was there to apply for a job. He walked me in to the Lieutenant (another former Marine). I finally ended up talking with a Captain, who was former Army. I got the job…
I felt pretty much at home again, wearing a uniform, in a structured environment, with a workforce that was more than half fellow veterans. After completing the academy, my first duty was working the Towers. In the Towers, I was responsible to watch the Yard and a section of the fence. There, I could continue to study the rules, regulations and policies while I worked. The job in the Tower was to stop anyone from trying to get over the fence, but there was no real interaction with the prisoners. When I completed my tour in the Towers, my next tour was working Death Row. It was there I had my first basic and very limited exposure to inmates.
After the Towers and Death Row, I was assigned to work the Yard (open areas between the housing units) with the Yard Sergeant. That's where I got my first real exposure to inmates. The Sergeant and I would walk around in the open areas with hundreds of inmates walking all around.
I was nervous. However, after I worked the Yard for a while, I started to relax into the job. As I became more settled, I think the inmates could see that I was a disciplined, but reasonable Officer. A lot of the inmates began to relax around me then as well.
A month or two passed and I actually started feeling like I’d known some of the inmates before. It was a strange feeling. It was almost a kind of kinship with some of them which made me very cautious. I was also curious. Each day I would talk with some of the inmates. I would get to know them, where they came from, their history, and listen to their stories. I found that we had a lot of background and experiences in common. I did some research into many of the inmate’s records. What I found was shocking.
Over half of the Officers that I worked with were fellow veterans. Some of them I knew personally and most were from units that I knew of. Over half of the inmates were also fellow veterans. They were from those same units and organizations. We fought in the same war and sometimes in the same places at the same time!
Some veterans came back and were able to fit right back into normal life. The majority, like me, came back and went through some tough times. Some veterans ended up in law enforcement on the outside of the bars. Some veterans went the other direction and ended up in the same place…on the other side of the bars.
You might say "There but for the Grace of God go I", but I attribute my ability to transition to my family and the strong morals and character I was raised with. Most cops (Law Enforcement Officers, or LEOs) have a strong sense of service. They'd rather uphold the law than break the law. They have a strong desire to protect victims. I am thankful that I had a supportive family and friends who could help me find the direction I needed at the time. Some were not so lucky and ended up on the other side of the bars.
One of the basic questions you have to ask yourself as an author is:
IS MY BOOK WORTH WRITING
Is there an audience for your book and will that audience buy it?
Many people write because of an internal drive that compels them write. Most authors want to make sure they get their ideas and stories into the public arena. If you want to get your book published and you want to make some money in the writing business, you have to think about how your book will sell and how you will publish it. Traditional publishing may not be for you so you may want to think about self-publishing.
As an independent/self-publisher, you may be better positioned to attract a more niche audience. Then, once you gain traction with your target audience, you can think about expanding your market to a broader audience. This will extend the life cycle of your book as your audience expands and perhaps provide you with some ongoing revenue for the book you publish.
First, you have to be able to estimate the size of your audience. This will enable you to estimate the profit or loss you might be able to expect.
If you expect your target market to be retired, discharged, and active duty military who served post 9/11, the size of your audience could be easily estimated. A simple Google search will reveal that the number of military Americans who served in the military in the Second Gulf War (defined as 2001 to present) is 2.6 million. What Percentage Of Americans Have Served In The Military?
Not all of those people are avid readers and some will perhaps not be interested in the topic you’re writing about. So you need to narrow your focus to perhaps post 9/11 veterans who served in combat roles, or post 9/11 veterans who struggle with issues of PTSD.
Perhaps you can go to Amazon and see how many and what kind of books are currently selling that deal with your subject. A quick search on Amazon will find 42 fiction books dealing with military warrior fiction. This will give you an idea of the competition you will face when it comes to selling your book.
So how do the numbers work out...
If you're publishing your book as an e-book, you can expect your return to be about half the cost the customer pays. Say you sell a kindle e-book for $9.99. You can expect your return to be about $5.00 per book. Make sure you don't delude yourself into thinking that the $5.00 is all yours. Let's say you sell 5,000 books. That is $25,000.
You will need to deduct from that the cost of your promotion including, but not limited to, web site, mailers, and postage. What about editorial and proofreading services and a legal review? You don't want to be sued for not referencing or validating sources. People are quite litigious and pass judgment very quickly over sloppy work.
All those things cost and are all out-of-pocket expenses before you see a dime of revenue. After that, you have deductions of administrative, marketing, and office expenses. How much money do you want to get paid? How many hours did you spend slaving over your masterpiece? 1,000? 2,000? 2,500 hours? You can take your expenses out and deduct from that self-employment tax and income taxes.
So you have to sell 2,000 books before you even begin to get paid. Ain't this business grand?!
If your return is expected to be $25,000, you will make $15,000. You can expect 1/3 - 2/5 of that will go to taxes. If you divide that by the number of hours you put into your book (2,000), your return on your labor will be $7.50 per hour for your writing labor (not counting the hours you spend networking, building your contact list, marketing your book, talking at book signings) – yes, all the great things you can expect. The good thing is that once the writing is done and the book is out there, you can continue to find more markets and attract more readers and the great thing is that you will get to start all over again with your next book.
To be serious for a second – You really have to want to be a writer and continue to work in order to make a living at it. Nevertheless, set your sights high, continue to work diligently, and you can make a great living as an author. The more work and the more you have in the public eye, the more residual income you can receive from your work. The more books you have, the better people will know you. The better people know you, the more you'll sell. Your books are like a gift that can keep on giving.
Test your resolve, test your passion, then give your gift to the world.
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Are We There Yet?
So…you want(ed) to be a writer, right? Lots of people do, and some of those people actually start something, but never finish. I wish it was all like a TV character that spends most of his time running around and solving crimes with the police, and occasionally sits with his feet up, tapping away at his laptop…and still cranks out novel after novel. Really seems like the life! (Hint: that’s fiction folks!)
I’m not even talking about the business of writing / editing / publishing / etc., etc… That’s a whole ‘nuther subject (or huge group of subjects).
I’m just talking about the actual process of writing. So why do so some people think and talk about writing, fewer people actually start writing, and way, way fewer people actually finish their project? Some lose interest and quit, and some just keep working on their “novel” – sometimes for decades.
Almost everyone who actually starts does so with a bang. A quick flash in the pan, and then things start to slow down. Don’t get me wrong – the intent is there, but things start popping up, and some things are done for the right reasons, but in the wrong sequence or in the wrong time.
I’m a perfect example (all writers are at first). When I first started, I was motivated, excited, and full of my book. I couldn’t wait to get to my computer every day and just pound it out!
Of course, I had to stop to eat every now and then. And I have to take out the dog…you can’t ignore the dog! And I had to plan in time to work out – sitting at the computer all day doesn’t keep up a toned, mighty physique. And don’t forget that you need to spend some time with family in the evenings, on weekends, etc. And then there’s household and yard chores. The lawn doesn’t cut itself. Etcetera, etcetera.
Some things just have to be plugged into the schedule!
Those things, and many more, are just part of life. Don’t forget, a lot of writers also have a full time job as well! Doesn’t leave much time for writing.
But believe it or not, those are not the things I’m talking about that pull you away from writing. Sure, they take up time, and leave you tired and unmotivated sometimes, but if you really want to be a writer, you have to accept them and power through those life issues.
The real writer killer is distractions! It starts slowly at first. You just want to check a couple of emails before you get started. How is your latest blog doing on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., etc.? Don’t forget the phone calls from friends and well-wishers, etc. These are insidious, and will suck up all your writing time if you don’t ruthlessly control them.
Some distractions seem to be critical to you really understanding the process of writing. I went through a ton of books telling me how to avoid distractions, and focus on the work. You’ve seen some of my reviews…and these are really good books for someone trying to get started writing – like The War of Art, Turning Pro, and Do the Work (Steven Pressfield). There are lots of them out there.
I would re-read the chapters I’d already written, “just to make sure I was staying with the flow of the story”. (More likely, because I liked my own writing, and marveled at my own prose.)
I spent time reading other books, and writing reviews (to get my name out there), attending writer’s clubs and groups, building profiles on sites like Goodreads, Rallypoint, LinkedIn, Facebook, and many others.
I started public speaking, giving interviews to magazines, on television. Heck, one of my FB posts even got over 17,000 views and almost 60 shares. I was really getting out there – building a following (future readers…).
All great, and all very necessary…in their own time. But here’s the question.
How many of these things caused the book to be written? Among all the chores, catching up, checking stats, growing the following, and all those other things – HOW MUCH WRITING WAS BEING DONE? What was I doing to actually get the book written?
Do you know what you want to write about? Do you know the subject? Then stop all that other stuff and as my good buddy Jimmie said when he told me the deep, dark secret to writing, “just go sit down and write”.
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