Thursday, April 05, 2007

Rewards of Writing

Writing takes effort, time and passion. The rewards can be few. Most writers toil, unpublished for their entire lives. Those that are published rarely see enough money to change their lives in any way. But there are days when it all seems to be worthwhile. That comment from a reader, an acknowledgment from an editor or the complimentary mention on someone’s website or blog. It’s rare, but those moments come along. Let me just share a few recent ones so you can get an idea of how little it actually takes to make a writer happy.

Last week I traveled to Tallahassee to accept an award. I’ve gotten a few awards in the past. Some sports related or martial arts based. A few related to my police career. But this one was for the Florida Book awards. I received the Gold Medal for best novel in popular fiction. I haven’t blogged about it or written any articles about the award because I felt a little funny about it. I’ve joked with my friends and taken jokes from others but it still made me feel vaguely uncomfortable for some reason. But I’m here now ready to say: I liked it.

This is me with Gov. Charlie Crist on my right and Sec. of State Curt Browning at the ceremony. I'm wearing the gold medal and stupid grin. Thanks to Eric Tournay for the photo.

The ceremony was great. The people associated with the prize were nice. I’m getting a ton of requests from libraries to speak. There is no aspect of the award with which I’m disappointed. So that was my biggest reward related to writing the last few weeks.

But I had a few other, smaller ones that you may want to consider the next time you see a friend with a new book out who looks a little glum. I’ve gotten a number of e-mails and a few phone calls, the best from my former partner who is now retired. The gist of all of them was the same: They had stayed up far too later because they couldn’t put down Field of Fire. Sure, I smile and nod or send back a nice return e-mail, but let me tell you there is no funk a comment like that can’t bring you out of.

Now the final story and I’ll move away from the self-congratulatory bull.

I was at church sitting at the end of the pew where we normally sit. My son was part of the procession as an acolyte (The Episcopal equivalent of an altar boy). For many years now he and I have had a secret joke where if he sees me while he is walking in the procession he starts to laugh. I don’t know what started it back when he was eight or ten the first time he walked down the aisle with a cross or banner, but he as never made it past me without laughing. Not once. Ever. Now, at seventeen, some people have caught on and think it’s funny or cute.

Well this time, the Sunday before last, he walks past me and laughs quietly and continues on as he has hundreds of times before. Our priest, a fine man of reasonable temperament and unending patience, is walking at the end of the procession. As he gets to me he stops and leans in. My stomach tightens as I fear I am finally about to be rebuked for making my son laugh so many times. The jig is up and I’m busted in a big way. Father Marty leans toward me and says, “Hey, that Field of Fire is one good book.” Then goes on about his way.

Wow, I thought, that’ll make a great book signing story.

As I sit on my outdoor porch about eight o’clock on a Sunday evening, the temperate breeze coming off the water and giving me the slightest chill, I realize I have a pretty good gig here. I had spent the afternoon windsurfing from my backyard. The photos pretty much say it all.

I also realized in the past three weeks that I’m not comfortable in the evening watching TV or reading unless I’ve written a minimum of a thousand words. Usually a little more. What I’ve learned is that they don’t have to be on a novel.

Originally, when Paul Levine approached me about writing a blog a week with Naked Authors I hesitated for several reasons. First, it seemed like a lot of work. Second, I didn’t want to be distracted from working on novels and third, it was an established blog with established writers. I didn’t want to feel like an outsider. I was wrong about each of those assumptions. Well except for the work part.

It is a lot of work but not that much work writing the blogs. It is mainly getting the photos uploaded and the dang thing formatted. I always repost them on my Amazon blog so I feel like I’m getting more use out of them. But I have found I like writing about something I care about. Like chatting with friends only ones spread out all over the country. I never realized people really paid attention to my Amazon blog until one day someone whom I had not met before asked me if my son was excited about going to Florida State next year. I thought I had met a psychic. I was stunned until I realized how they knew the information. It pleased me and freaked me out a little at the same time. But I do enjoy sharing some of my limited writing experience with the blog readers.

I have also found that it doesn’t distract me from writing novels. When I’m working a novel I tend to shut out other things. But when I get tired or lose that focus, I stop working on the novel for that day. Sometimes I like the change of switching to a “written conversation” for the blog. Like today’s blog. It’s more personal and light but I mean it. So far the blog has not taken away from the novels at al.

And finally the other bloggers have done nothing but make me feel like I’m part of the club. On the web, in e-mail and in person I couldn’t enjoy more support.

So I am happy to have found a home here. I don’t know if anyone saw the photo of Patty, Paul and me in Publisher’s Weekly a few weeks ago. It was just from my stop at the L.A. Mystery Book store and we all posed for a simple shot. I have no idea how PW got the photo but it was nice to see it. There was not story other than the caption that mentioned I was on tour with Field of Fire. I doubt they would have noticed it if I were not a part of such a well-respected blog.

Hope you guys are as easily thrilled as I am with simple comments, funny blogs and photographs.

See you next week,



  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Congratulations on the award, Jim! And of course you should take your place with such great authors on this blog.

    How do you stay up on that little board?

    Next thing you know, there'll be an action figure.

  3. To those of us who love to read, you guys are like rock stars! I was shocked and surprised to find Ridley's site and then this one and others where you can actually talk to the authors. Mostly I love being able to tell someone how much I enjoyed their work. It feels great. Your book is on my TBR pile and I am looking forward to reading a work that has won an award! Congrats.

  4. Hey Jim,
    Congrats on the medal!

  5. Talk about thrills, we had the back of our pickup bronzed last week with the words, "Jim Born road back here," inscribed on the bumper. Our social status in Columbia, SC has risen at least one, maybe two rungs.

    FIELD OF FIRE is a great book, by the way.

  6. "I haven’t blogged about it or written any articles about the award because I felt a little funny about it."

    Trust me. We all feel a little funny about you winning an award, too.

  7. Let's see, you carry a gun.

    Judges, who are notoriously wary of being shot, give you an award.

    Is there really a mystery here?

    In the interest of protecting my own wrinkled hide, congratulations, Jim.

  8. I've long since congratulated you on the Florida Book Award, so I won't do it again here, except to say hurrah, much deserved and, boy, I hope you wear that nifty medal down in Sarasota for the Mystery Florida weekend. Especially when we're out on the beach.

    Here's what I want to know: What does Gov. Charlie Crist smell like up close? (Is there a hint of pina colada suntan oil?) And where was his hand in that photo? (Is that why you were smiling?)

  9. Congratulations, Jim. And thank you for your insights into what it is that makes you write and the passion you have for your craft - beautifully written. And your story about your son made me laugh - I can't help it, I always giggle in church. You are a real asset to this bunch of Naked Authors.

  10. Uh...that inscription on the back of our pickup's bumper should say, "Jim Born rode back here," not, "Jim Born road back here." Those of us in SC don't always reed and right awl that good.

  11. Jim, we NakedAuthors are so incredibly proud of you not only because you are a great writer but because you are one of the nicest people on the planet. You earned your success. Enjoy and cheers to you.

  12. Oh for God's sake, Born, you just made me cry. For happy. For you.

    Now I guess we're going to have to call you Our B, since Our J is taken.

  13. Thank you guys for the kind words. Even Shelby, who I might add, has secured a very good fan in my daughter. She even wrote him a fan e-mail, unsolicited by me.

    I really do like to write. The blog is just another extension of that.

    I like riding in pick up trucks too. Debby, you guys made me a huge fan of Columbia. If you get rid of Steve Spurrier, I'd consider moving.


  14. Spurrier stays until he teachs those boys how to win. Desperation often makes for strange bedfellows.

  15. No modesty required. This is BIG, pal!

    You gotta always wear that medal around your neck, like an old Russian soldier who lived through the Siege of Leningrad.

    Because your post is so sincere and overflowing with love of family, friends, and church, you have put me in a terrible bind. How the hell can I say anything remotely critical without being a total creep?

    On the other hand...the downhaul on your sail is not tight enough. Also, your erect posture reveals you've got too little wind on that inland lake. Head over to the ocean. This time of year, you should have clean lines of whitecaps ("corduroy to the horizon") and warm, 20 knot winds from the southeast. While I am unqualified to give you advice on firearms, felons or writing, trust me on this. Until you've crossed the Pailolo Channel from Maui to Molokai, I'll keep giving you tips.

  16. Congratulations, Jim, on your wonderful award!!

    And what a wonderful, humble and heartwarming post. You'm just a big mushy inside. :-D You know, behind the badge, the gun, and the handcuffs...

    I've been reading Naked Authors for some time, and I never tire of the interesting experiences, observations and humour delivered here by these oh so talented authors and their hangers on (us!). You're a great addition to an individual and distinctive team of talents. Again, welcome, and keep up the great posts.


  17. Marianne,

    Shelby isn't so much of a hanger-on as he is a groupie.

    Just thought I'd clear that up.

  18. All awards, medals and words alike, are well-merited. As for talking/writing about them: "Let your light shine before all men." (Uh, and women, too.)

    Tom, T.O.