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News and Updates

Self Publish or Traditional?


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I’m nearing the point where I will have to make a decision. Do I self-publish my memoir or should I go the traditional route? I am having a hard time deciding. Here’s why.

My first instinct is to go traditional publishing for a few reasons. First and foremost, respect. Not everyone can get published through a publishing company but anybody can self publish a book, so it would make me feel more like a legitimate writer. As a writer, at least for me, there is constant doubt as to whether or not my writing is any good. Getting published through a publishing company and having a literary agent would make me feel official and I hopefully I would have less doubt.

Next, traditional publishing handles everything…for a price. I don’t know about you but I am not great at marketing. I know what to do, I can picture it all in my head, but when it comes time to follow through, consistently, I have zero interest. I don’t like to bother people. I know exactly how it feels to talk to someone and then they start trying to sell you something. I don’t want to do that to anybody. Of course I want to get paid to write, it’s my dream job, but selling yourself is part of writing, unless I go with traditional publishing.

A publishing company gets paid when your book sells so it is in their best interest to market your book. They will put it on the front of their website, post it on social media, and if you get really lucky, they’ll know somebody that knows somebody and before you know it, you’re talking to Oprah. (Or whomever is her equivalent today). At the very least, they will try to make some money from your book and so there will be effort on their part. However, as stated before, that comes with a pretty heft price, or a percentage of all sales. I don’t know the exact numbers but i’m pretty sure it’s akin to the old record label days when the artist gets like 7% after it’s all said and done.

Which brings me to self publishing.

If I self publish my memoir, I can either sell it through my website and get to keep any profit (minus cost of production and distribution) or I can host it on Amazon or something and get to keep a decent portion of all sales (I think it’s like 35% or something). However, I will have to market myself. *gag*

I hate marketing. I know it’s everywhere and anything I’ve ever purchased is probably influences by some brilliant marketing, but when I think of what it really is, it makes me sick. Marketing is influencing an audience to purchase a product. What does that really mean? Influencing is a fancy way to say manipulating, and audience is a way to generalize (or “other”) individual people. Marketing is manipulating people, and because we live in a capitalist society, it’s supposed to be ingrained in us that its okay. Really, what other way is there to make enough money to survive?

However, I can’t seem to do it when I try. You have to be consistent, selling yourself every single day, every chance you get, if you want to turn a profit. We do it with “likes” on social media, or even to get traffic (views) to my website. The ONLY reason that this website doesn’t have a larger following is because I suck at marketing. If I were to let everything go and really push this site, people would visit it daily and tell their friends about it and it would grow. And if I could do that, then self publishing would make sense because I would be able to cut out the middle man and sell my own book.

The possibility that I could some day do this is what prevents me from reaching out to a literary agent. Let’s face it, digital is the future and traditional publishing is a dying breed. Just like record labels, and cable TV, everything is going online.

I want two things from my memoir (and my writing in general)

I want it to be the best it can be. I want people to want to read it because they connect to my writing and enjoy the escape. I want people to look forward to my next book or my next article or whatever.

I also want to be able to not work a regular job and live off my writing. I don’t want to write things that I don’t want to write though, like working as a freelance writer, taking whatever writing job I can get to get by. I’d rather cut my dick off.

So I sit, still wondering what path to chose. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I need guidance from someone who has done it before. Thank you for reading.

Musings

What About The Middle Road?


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There are two sides to every story…. unless it is your side.

This is what I don’t get with today’s political climate. People are either Left or Right. When I tell people that I don’t have a side, they treat me as if I said, “I’m on the other team.”

Either that or they tell me that I’m too scared to pick a side because it is obvious which side is right and which is wrong.

Coming from the academic circuit recently, It was generally people that were on the left that are confused as to how I don’t see the left as being the correct side. I have some views that lean right.

In my personal life, I have family and friends that are on the right, and are equally confused when I say that I have some ideals that lean left.

Why can’t I be in the middle?

Is it because there isn’t a “Middle Party?” At least not one that stands a chance of winning the election.

I’m baffled that we teach our children to express their opinions in a respectful manner, and to also treat others with the same respect they want to receive, then we turn around and scream at other adults that “I’m right and you’re clearly wrong, so you’re the enemy!”

On the news, on the internet, and in person, when it comes to politics, all I ever see is “MY SIDE RULES!”

What I find most interesting is the mob mentality of it all. I can usually get a person to be rational if we’re talking one on one. Not everyone, but generally speaking, people are more willing to admit that there are two sides to a story so long as they aren’t at risk of being heard by their fellow party mates.

What does that mean? Why are people so afraid? When did logic become obsolete? Emotional reaction has taken over and it scares the shit out of me for our countries future. Would a middle road future really be so bad?

News and Updates

70,000 Words!


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Today I have reached a major milestone in my memoir. I have written 70,000 words. That’s about 230 pages, and I can’t even believe it! Technically, it is enough to call this a novel, but I’m not finished yet. I still have more to say. However, I will be done with this in 2019 and will be shopping it around to agents and publishers!

The best advice I’ve ever received about writing is to write in the morning! I write first thing when I wake up and over the past four months I have written more words than I ever have in my entire life! (maybe not combined, but total for one project).

Thank you so much to those who have been reading and giving me advice. Thank you to those that have been encouraging me to keep writing. Thank you to those that bet I would have given up by now, you’re my favorite! Thank you to myself for getting up, day after day, and writing, regardless of the stress that’s been lingering!

That is all, thank you for reading this, and I will keep you posted when I reach the next mile stone!

 

Musings

God Exists, But He Isn’t a Man


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God is real, but he isn’t a man.

If you’re religious, or have any knowledge of the Abrahamic religions, then you’ve probably heard that “God made us in his image.” Because of this, many people depict God as an old man with a long white beard. God is also depicted as a single dad that loves us all. If we trace human nature back as far as we can go, this just can’t be true.

Men are not loving by nature, we’re tolerant. Read the old testament, God was vengeful, and full of wrath. But, what about women?

Women were supposedly created from the rib of men. I don’t buy this. If that were true, then why wouldn’t it be the way in which women are created today? That would be pretty cool though.

Imagine being a young boy, playing and hanging out with your friends, but once you hit a certain age, and “grow up,” you could decide to settle down, remove one of your ribs, creating the perfect wife for you, and have a family. It would make it clear that men are superior, and women are here to please us. Sadly, that is not how it works.

How do we make people? Sex! Men and women are both required to make a new person. That alone should tell you that we are fundamentally equal and that whatever story was written about women being inferior to men is BS. We are equal, but opposite, and that’s okay.

There are exceptions, but in general:

Men are external. We act OUT. We wage war on the world. We hunt, we kill, we provide. Our sex organ is on the outside of our body. We are strong physically, our outer shells made of steel. We are dominant and intimidating. We overtake by force.

Women are internal. They act IN. They wage war in their bodies, growing life from within. They sheath us. They receive. Their sex organ is inside. They are strong emotionally, their inner shells made of steel. They are submissive and cunning. They overtake by strategy and persistence.

Fire and Water.

Fire can boil water. Water can extinguish fire. Fire can warm a home, or fire can scorch the earth. Water can nourish life, or water can drown it. Neither better; both necessary; both deserve respect. It isn’t better to be a man, nor is it better to be a woman.

God is a singular word that represents the duality of life. Broken down, God would be two Gods; God, the mother, or Space, and God, the father, Time. Space and Time. Without one, the other can’t exist. If there was no space, just time, what would that even be? It is impossible to describe, because nothing could exist without a space to exist in. The only way we know that time exists is by measuring the changes in space. When you see a banana rot, it is indicative that it has been sitting out for some time.

On the other hand, space, no time. The universe would be like a photograph, or a model. It would just exist, but nothing would ever happen, nor change. No moving parts, no clouds, no rain. No wind, no us. Beautiful, but pointless.

No, we need space AND time. God, the father, made love with God, the mother, and he seeded her womb, space, where life grows and is nourished. Not every sperm makes it to the egg, not every planet sustains life, it takes a miracle. We live inside our mother’s womb, and when we die here, perhaps we are really being born there, wherever “there” is. Call it Heaven if you’d like.

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Motivation, Musings

Writing Tips


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Writing Tips
by R.J.Harrigan

Being a writer is one of the hardest but most rewarding passions to pursue. Unless you’re thinking monetary rewards in which case, be a doctor or something. I kid…not really.

How to be a writer is another challenge. Here are 3 simple tips to follow so you can call yourself a writer too!

1: Carving Time

The single most important thing when it comes to writing is actually WRITING! The number one excuse I hear (and have used) is

“I don’t have time.”

I know it might feel that way but let’s be honest, there’s time. You have a few options. Either accept that you’re never going to write the next great American novel – or find the time. Take note of how you’re spending your time throughout the day. How much are you spending:

  • Watching TV
  • Browsing the internet/social media
  • Playing video games
  • At the bar
  • Chasing dates

You see where this goes? You have the time, but you’re not prioritizing writing. Find a time that you can use to write, whether it is 30 minutes a day, or an hour, and keep to it. Be consistent.

I only started prioritizing my writing in the fall of 2018. So, just a few months ago. However, I decided to write in the morning, before my day starts, and that meant waking up earlier, around 5:30 am to write; which meant going to sleep earlier, which meant adjusting my night routine, which meant eliminating caffeine after 5 pm. It seems like a lot, but it was actually easy after the first week. I wrote every day, regardless if it was a few hundred words or a few thousand. I didn’t put pressure on it, I just enjoyed writing. Now, as of this post, I have 53,000 words, 168 pages written. You can do that to, one page at a time. Just make sure to keep writing!

2: Don’t Get Hung Up On The Details

If anything prevents you from writing, put it aside and come back to it.

Look, I know what it is like to write a line, or a paragraph, or a page, and think, “This sucks, I need to revise it right now.” However, that can lead to frustration, and exhaustion, and eventually quitting.

Guilty.

I’ve quit so many times in my life, taking months off before writing again. It wasn’t until this recent attempt that I decided not to get hung up on a line. If something doesn’t feel right, I just highlight it in yellow and move on. The important thing to remember is that writing is rewriting. You can always come back and make it better!

3: Take It Seriously, And Make Sure Those Around You Do Too

Yes, that means your spouse, children, friends, etc. My wife is very supportive and understanding about my writing, but we’ve bumped heads a few times when I said,

“I can’t right now, I have to write.”

Those around you will see it as a “hobby,” because you’re not getting paid (at least I’m not, yet!) to write. So, if it gets in the way of what they want you to do, whether it is a chore, or drinking, they will tell you that your writing can wait. If those things fall inside the time that you’ve carved out (see step 1), then you must choose writing!

Obviously, you can make the exception if it is an emergency, like hospital worthy, but not emergency like, “Bro, it’s my only night off this week.”

That’s it! 3 Simple tips. Make time. Keep writing. Take it Seriously. Do these things, every day, and you will be a writer! Good Luck!

Motivation, Musings, News and Updates

New Year’s Resolution


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This year I am going to finish my memoir and hopefully get it published!

I also want to get more viewers to my site, especially participants that will submit writing to me for my “What’s Your Story?” section.

Most importantly, I want to be happy and as stress free as possible. I put in some serious work in 2018 to lower my stress and I made it a good portion of the year being happy, but the last month started taking its toll on me and I can feel myself slipping backwards. I am fully aware of it and doing what I can to prevent myself from taking too many steps back. Sometimes a step back is necessary to move ahead, so I’m going to chalk it up to that and keep it moving.

Writing has been my outlet that has saved me from breaking. I always feel better, calmer, lighter, after writing. It feels so good to put my laptop screen down, signifying that I’m done for the moment, and knowing that I am one step closer to finishing this book. I can’t express the joy I feel in being proud of myself. It isn’t a feeling I’m familiar with. I’ve always downplayed my achievements because they weren’t things I cared about, just what I thought I should do. Writing this book is something I care about, and every day that I write, I still can’t believe that I’m actually doing it. If I can, anyone can, a tired cliche that I loathe myself for saying, but (again at the risk of sounding cliche) it is true. Ask anyone who knows me personally and they’ll tell you, I had the potential, but not the drive. But here I am, new year, 52,000 words deep in this memoir. I can’t be stopped and I can’t wait for you all to read it when it is done!

Happy New Year!

2019’s mantra is “Keep it light, Dutch. Keep it light.”

Musings

Goodbye 2018!


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I am glad that you’re over!

Why was 2018 so tough for everyone? For me it was the year of uncertainty. I felt stuck in life and complacency gives me anxiety like you wouldn’t believe. The problem was that I had to wait. For instance,

I took the firefighter’s exam in March. I had to wait for them to schedule the physical exam over the summer. Then I had to wait for results to come out. Though I am still waiting, I’m in the final phase, which is waiting for a job opening in my city! That could take years but because of my veteran status, I’m higher on the list. *fingers crossed*

I have to wait to purchase a home. I have the VA loan waiting for me, but I need a provable income and for 2018, my income was the GI Bill (Thanks Uncle Sam!). Unfortunately, though it was acceptable money to pay my bills, it isn’t acceptable money to take out a loan, so I was waiting to graduate, which I did this December! Look out 2019! I’m making moves this year.

I had to wait, again for the provable income, to refinance my car through my bank. The Honda dealership I went through got the best of me that day and I signed a horrible deal that I can’t wait to get out of. Once I have obtained provable income, which I am currently job searching for while I patiently await for my firefighting position, I will take out a loan from my bank, pay off my car, and have a much better deal to pay every month.

Most importantly, I had to wait to grow mentally and emotionally. I have spent too much of my life harboring anger inside, and though I am not perfect, I am far better at expressing myself. I used to hold it in and self destruct. I wasn’t much of the “lash-out” type, but more of the implosion, giving up, and making bad decisions type. I have been putting in work for years on this, but it still takes time to become habit, and I’ve been waiting to reach the point that I am at now, which, over the past few months, has allowed me to sit down and read and write daily. I love the person I have become.

I appreciate 2018 for its challenges and for the opportunities for growth, but I soooo look forward to sending it packing and welcoming in the new year!

2019, this one is mine.

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Musings

The Hardest Part of Writing a Memoir


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It all comes down to one question. Did that really happen that way? Memory is a tricky thing. However, when writing a memoir, it is your job as an author to bring as much validity to the story as possible. We’ve all heard about that best selling author that turned out to be a liar. If I don’t remember this exactly the way it happened, will they call me a liar too?

Worrying about that prevented me from writing for a long time. Whenever I reached a moment of uncertainty, I stopped writing, and eventually gave up. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with a professor at my school that I was able to put that fear aside.

He told me that a memoir is called creative non-fiction for a reason. While we try to keep as close to the truth as possible, in the end, you’re writing a story. Readers don’t think of the character as you do, they see it as a character in a book. He urged me to see it the same. “It is a character based on you, with a story based on your life.”

That one simple sentence helped me to keep writing when things got foggy. Is my memoir entirely true? In a word, no. The events that took place are true, but most of the people’s names have been changed. Some of the details about where we were or which day could be off. Dialogue gets reconstructed, and though I try my best to keep it to the actually conversations that took place, I don’t remember every word that was said. I recall the essence of a conversation and that’s where I get creative.

Do any of these things prevent you from writing? Do you agree that creativity can be a part of a true story? Some people don’t and that’s okay too. However, I believe intentions matter when writing. If you intentionally fool your audience, then that’s fraud. If you do your best to recreate truth, but have to fill in some gaps, then that’s the thin line of acceptability.

 

Motivation, News and Updates

The First Draft is Done


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Today is a very special day. I have finished my first draft of my memoir. It is just a skeletal outline of the whole story, but it give me a framework to work with. I have just over 50,000 words and 157 pages.

I have been taking notes along the way and already have at least another 30,000 words to add. So, I am a little ways away from being completely done, and like my professor told me in college, “When it comes to writing, nothing is ever done, just due.”

I can’t even begin to express how happy I feel about this. I never thought that I would actually do it. I have been talking about writing this memoir for a decade but didn’t sit down to do the important part…writing.

The only thing that kick started it was my final project for my master’s degree. I didn’t want to write a thesis paper, so I asked if I could do something more creative. They green lit the idea to write a sample of my memoir, then a 10 page paper “justifying” it. I had an adviser, Askold, that guided me through the process and read my work along the way, but most importantly, he gave me deadlines to adhere to.

After I finished the requirement for the project, I passed it in and received my passing grade, only to tuck away the memoir and not look at it again for almost a year.

I made a promise to myself that since I spent my twenties focusing on physical growth (I was skinny growing up so I hit the gym and kitchen hard), I would spend my thirties on intellectual growth. That meant more reading and writing. I wasn’t keeping that promise to myself until a few months ago when I read this quote that said, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who can not.” That hit me hard for some reason.

I made a new morning routine that I still stick to. I wake up early everyday, and the first thing I do is make coffee and sit down at my computer and work on my memoir. I don’t have a word count that I must hit, but I average about 1000 words daily. Then, I read 25 pages of a book. Then, I write a blog post. That’s the routine and it has changed my world!

50,000 words, four 300-500 page books read in a just a few months. I can’t wait to see where I am in a few more.

Musings

The Day I Rapped For Ice-T


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ice-t

It was a day like any other in February of 2015 when I found out that the Legendary Ice-T would be coming to speak at my school. I was near the end of my two-year degree program at Bunker Hill Community College and nervous about what to do next. I hadn’t yet decided on furthering my education at Umass Boston.

The moment that I found out about the event, and its limited seating, I called and emailed everyone that I could think of at the school to get a ticket. I succeeded and patiently waited for the day to come.

I thought that it would be cool if I got to rap for Ice-T. I wondered which verse I would do if I got the opportunity. I picked out 3 of my favorites; that way I would have one ready for any mood. As a rap artist, I always came prepared to a show with multiple cds of instrumentals so I could gauge the temperature in the room and decide what performance would be best to give.

As the day grew closer, I got this determined feeling. I put it out into the universe. “It would be cool if..” turned into, “I am going to rap for Ice-T.” I practiced in my car constantly. I imagined the audience’s response. I pictured him saying, “That was so good that I am going to sign you right now!” I am a dreamer after all.

The day came. I sat in the auditorium, about mid-way up, a little right of center stage. I wore my Boston Bruins beanie, hoping the bright yellow would stand out. When Ice-T came out, I joined in the applause and enjoyed the speech he gave. I was surprised at how funny he was. His storytelling was amazing, and I had no idea that he was in the Army before his rap career. That decided it. I had a verse about PTSD and veteran suicide that I had written recently and figured it would be the best fit for the occasion.

After his speech, he said that he didn’t have much time so he could only take 3 questions. I shot my hand up in the air, I tried to lock eyes with Ice-T but he was looking at the other side of the auditorium. He called on a guy who asked general life advice.

He asked for another question. Again, I sat straight, arm raised high, eyes focused. He called someone else. I wasn’t going to give up.

Third and final question. “This one’s mine” i thought, but he called on a girl in the back. I felt defeated. I was so sure that I was going to get my chance. She said that she was an artist and drew him a picture and asked if he would like it. He was happy to accept, and then he said, “Well that wasn’t really a question so I’ll take one more.”

Without hesitation my arm when up. I leaned a little to the side to get an extra inch of height in my finger tips. I locked eyes with Ice-T, he saw me. I gave him a look that said, “Trust me, call on me.” He didn’t or couldn’t turn his eyes away and he said,

“The man in the Pittsburgh Penguins hat.”

I stood up and proudly said, “It’s a Bruins hat!”

He put his hands on his head, realizing where we were. “Of course!” he said.

I told him that I wanted to thank him for his service and that I was a big fan of what he’s done for Hip Hop. I said, “As a fellow veteran, and a rapper, I was wondering if I could rap for you?”

I could feel the audience’s smiles, some ready, some pre-judging.

“Yeah, go ahead. You better kill it though.” Ice said.

They brought me a microphone and I rocked it. We weren’t allowed to bring phones in, but somebody snuck a phone video here.

They cheered, Ice-T clapped and told me that he could tell that I rap for real and put in the work. I felt like the man. He didn’t sign me though.

For the rest of the day, I was a local celebrity. I was approached in the hallway for pictures and people asked about my music. It ended when I left to go home, but I will never forget that day and how great it felt to get a compliment from someone so established in the game.

They Boston Globe wrote a short piece about it here