Monday, July 20, 2015

"Why are you wasting your time on that stupid book?"

After a yesterday of strenuous yardwork, my limbs ached with soreness this morning and simply refused to be willed into motion.  So, I indulged myself with a few extra minutes of motionlessness. 

But my mind--my frequent worst enemy--was racing along furiously at warp 9.8 (Trekkers will know what that means; for the non-sci-fi-inclined, you can safely assume that it means pretty damned fast ... even faster than a politician's sidestepping of a pointed question).

For some odd reason, my thoughts meandered back through time and space to the years in which I was writing "Child of Privilege."  I was involved in a romantic relationship with a woman who--shall I say--was not exactly "author-tolerant."  Bluntly stated, the book--and my preoccupation with it--annoyed the hell out of her.  For the record, I do readily plead guilty to cancelling a number of dates with her because of a chapter I simply had to finish or an inspiration I simply had to pursue.

Things came to a head one evening while we were hanging around her apartment.  She wanted us to spend the evening visiting her family.  I wanted to fire up my trusty laptop and finish off a particularly difficult chapter.  Neither of us was in a mood that night to compromise.

The raw sewage hit the fan.


Her fiery words etched themselves into my book of memories that evening;  she and I went our separate ways shortly thereafter.

But this morning, with sore muscles and traces of soil still trapped under my fingernails, I found myself reiterating--and struggling to answer--my former girlfriend's question.  Even though the writing of "Child" is long over, I still spend many hours in promotional efforts to get the novel out there.  In addition, I've already devoted countless hours to the first draft of my 2nd novel; and many more hours of tedious work await me.

Why do I keep writing when the odds are stacked so convincingly against me?

On the negative side of the ledger, perhaps I am wasting my time.  I recall reading somewhere that getting trad-published has never been as difficult as it is right now.  Unless you're a "household name," a celebrity, or an established author with a kick-butt sales record, the agents and publishing houses don't even want to hear from you.  As a result, there are so many indie books--both good and not-so-good--out there vying for book-buyers' attention that getting noticed in that massive crowd seems virtually impossible. A slot on the best-seller list will likely remain an elusive dream for the vast majority of us.  If you're lucky, you may make enough in royalties to hike over to McDonald's and enjoy a burger.

All things considered, your odds of winning the lottery may indeed be better.

Okay, so why do I keep writing?

Because I have stories inside me that I'm dying to share with the world: stories about life, stories about people, and stories about this world of ours.  There's an inner drive that must express itself through my stories--even if only a handful of people ever ultimately read them.  They're stories with a reason, a purpose, a message, a nugget of wisdom I offer to folks with whom I feel a kind of kinship even though we'll probably never meet face-to-face.  I write about ordinary people overcoming extraordinary challenges with extraordinary strength and courage.  My quest is to write stories that will incite readers to feel, think, cringe, engage, laugh, cry, look around them, and ask questions ... both of themselves and of their world.  I will never write a light, fluffy read; any book that carries my name will impart an undeniable message to any reader with the heart to receive it.

Do I want to be a world-famous author?  HELL YES!  I would happily accept that responsibility.  I think a sizable percentage of us (myself very much included) long for that 15 minutes of fame we keep hearing about.  Some people even resort to committing heinous crimes and harming innocent strangers for the twisted thrill of becoming the lead story on the evening news.

Rest assured that I have no desire to commit any sort of crime, heinous or otherwise.  Nor do I have any desire to harm anyone.  If I never receive so much as a parking ticket for the rest of my life, that will suit me just fine. 

I'm ready to earn my 15 minutes by offering every book-buyer in this ol' world something positive and beneficial: a compelling read.  I'm ready to earn my stripes by writing stories that showcase the best and worst of human nature; that chronicle people overcoming insurmountable odds through bravery and determination; that depict the vital triumph of good over evil; and that offer (at least in a literary context) a little reassurance that happy endings can still happen in this day and age.  I'll pull no punches in my writing; I'll tell the stories as I see them in my mind's eye.  But I promise this to you, dear reader: you'll never get less than my best.  That's my responsibility as an author ... and I take it very seriously.

If--after all of my books have been written--I've given just one reader an unexpected glimpse into him- or herself through my words, or I've granted just one reader a few hours of escape from life's trials and tribulations, or I've provided just one reader with a literary companion during a lonely or troubled time, then I'll go to Saint Peter when my time comes and tell him that I've lived well, that I've touched somebody's life in a positive way.  I'll stand tall before him and loudly proclaim that I was an author ... maybe not a rich and famous author, but an author nonetheless.

And I'll be damn proud of it; I hope the folks who read my novels will share my pride.

By the way, since I've never been one to resist a long shot (I'm a self-pubbed author, right?), I WILL buy some lottery tickets tonight.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Another goal achieved in the writing life of Ross Ponderson.

The first target was set for me back in 1995 by a photo in my local newspaper's society page.  Several debutantes were posing for a group shot at some gala fundraising event.  Their makeup was perfectly done; not a hair strayed out of place; their smiles were flawless and bright; their expensive formal gowns showcased their shapely figures in a dignified manner befitting the strictures of dignity, public image, and high society.

Everything about them was PERFECT as duly chronicled by the camera's unforgiving eye.

Or was it?

The questions began buzzing my brain like midsummer mosquitoes: Were they truly as happy as they appeared on camera?  Did they look this perfect first thing in the morning?  Did their wealth and privilege ensure harmony within their families?  Did high society life--with its emphasis on protocol and public image--fulfill them?  Would they be capable of surviving in the paycheck-to-paycheck world?

More questions, these much more pointed: What if nothing were true about that picture?  What if dignity and social mores vanished into thin air once the cameras were gone, the gowns hung back in their closets, and the makeup removed?  What if the majestic front doors of their mansions shielded family secrets that would shame Hell itself?  What if their sprawling estates were actually multi-million-dollar houses of pain?

What if the lives behind that picture were nothing more than facades, smoke-and-mirrors, glitter and fake smiles, and plastic elegance?

The ideas began firing in rapid succession.  Intrigued by what was happening, I hurriedly scribbled down the possibilities as they occurred to me.  Over the months, I knitted the bits and pieces together with the yarn of an overactive imagination.  The story elements flew into place with frightening ease.  But was my ragtag outline sufficient to form the basis for a commercially-viable novel?  Would I run out of material after 20K words?  Powered by sheer hope (and visions of the Best-Seller List), I plowed on.  It wasn't long before the first master outline of "Child of Privilege" was completed.

Another milestone reached.

Then, the uneasy decision was made to charge forward and pound out a first draft on my trusty Toshiba laptop.  In December of 1997, my Child (pardon the pun) was born.

Another goal achieved: I was a novelist! 

After a rousing chorus of "No, thanks" from every publisher and agent I queried--and a disheartening encounter with a less-than-scrupulous agent--the manuscript was angrily flung onto a closet shelf where it languished (or fermented?) for 19 years.  I was done with writing.

Or so I thought.

I stumbled onto KDP in June of 2014.  My chance to get her out there, I thought, maybe my last chance.   

After 3 months of rewrites and final polishing, Child took her place on Amazon's shelf.  Another milestone passed: I was now a published author with a book on a public shelf.  Anybody could walk in there and buy my book!  OMG!!  My Child was on her own; it was now the province of the world's book-buyers to pass judgement on her.

For those inquiring minds who want to know, my second novel (as yet unnamed) is slogging its way through its first draft.  At this point, even I'M uncertain as to how it'll end! My vision of this second story seems to evolve in different directions with each passing day.  Watch this blog for progress reports (it feels so weird to say that!).

So, with tentative, shaky steps, I've reached another goal today: I am a blogger.  I plead guilty to being a complete newbie who is (literally) learning as he goes along; but it's finally up and running.

An in-depth look at my first novel can be found by clicking on the "About Child of Privilege" tab.

A year ago, I had neither a Facebook page nor a Twitter page nor any other kind of a page for that matter.  Now the links to my pages on these social media venues can be found on my "Contact Me" page. 

My "Contact Me" Page???? 

Who woulda thunk it?

I invite you to join me on my journey.  Let's see where this crazy thing goes!