Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Thankful Writer

by Eric Beetner

Rebecca here, but just for a minute to introduce today's guest blogger, Eric Beetner. When I first met him at Left Coast Crime in Los Angeles a few years ago, his wonderful hardboiled
novel, One Too Many Blows to the Head, had just been released. He's been incredibly busy since
then, writing a sequel Borrowed Trouble. Just this month he has two novellas coming out--Dig Two Graves,

a gritty revenge tale from the new Snubnose Press, and Split Decision, a contribution to the Fight Card series, a series of pulp throwbacks set in the 50s about boxing. It is the third book after Felony Fists by Paul Bishop and Cutman by Mel Odom, all written as Jack Tunney. 7 Criminal Minds's own Gary Phillips is doing one too that will be out next year.

How he manages to find time to work as a professional film editor and constantly take and post adorable pictures of his daughters to his Facebook page, I'll never know. But I'm very grateful that he does.

Without further ado, here's Eric Beetner on thankfulness!

November again and Thanksgiving is upon us. I’ll forgo my usual rant against the Thanksgiving meal (it’s all the beige! If y’all love it so much, why only eat it once a year!) and I’ll stick to the topic.

What am I most thankful for in my writing? Well, the flip answer is to ask what am I not thankful for, but there are actually plenty of things. For example, I just finished up another pass of self-editing to remove my uncanny likeness for the word “that” in my first drafts. Tomorrow night will be attacking my finger’s unconscious need to type “just” on every page.

Really, when I I got into this racket, all I ever aspired to was to be a part of the conversation. I never expect to be the first writer mentioned, but as long as I created work that got people to add me to the list I’d be happy. Lo and behold, I find myself on several lists nowadays. I’ve been mentioned, therefore I am. Well, not me, my work. So much better. When I say “me” I mean the writing. I have no desire at all for people to discuss me, the guy. The work is what matters and what is so much more interesting.

The tiny thrills of the writer’s life don’t stop there. I have had the pleasure of meeting people I am not related to who know my work. And actually like it! What a bonus. I’m sure I’ve met people that don’t much care for my writing, but even they have been kind enough to stay silent about it.

I’m thankful for the respect and kindness of my peers. And for the giant presumption I make in calling them peers. I won’t go through my usual name dropping, but to get to know writers that I enjoy reading and have them invite me into the fold is tremendously gratifying and humbling. Even an invitation to write for 7 Criminal Minds makes me a little teary. Mostly for the fact I didn’t have to come begging on hands and knees to be let into the party.

If all of life is merely high school on a grander scale, then I have been patiently waiting outside the doors of the theater waiting for the nerds inside to say I was nerdy enough to join them. (I know the feeling from experience because that is exactly what happened in my real high school life. Oh yeah, I was in The Man Who Came To Dinner. Whatcha got to say to me now?)

I’ve been lucky enough to have that wonderfully writerly thrill of being invited into anthologies. It makes me feel like the prettiest girl at the dance. When someone is considering w
ho to ask to write a story for a collection and they somehow draw my name out of the hat, how can I not think I’ve made it? I’m in the mix!

Yeah, that’s all I ever wanted. I suppose now that I can safely say I’ve made that goal I should aim higher, but the feeling I get from being included in the fraternity of crime writers is fully satisfying to me for now. I have the good fortune of loving my (non-writing) day job. I support my family and can write for the pure love of it. And my coworkers and family are still on the same page as the rest of the “outside” in thinking being published is a glamourous road to wealth and my having completed several novels must mean I am smarter than they are. I love that we all keep the truth a secret so well among writers.

I can’t decide which makes me more depressed – the person who talks about the novel they are working on for ten years and never finishes it, or the writer who finishes a novel or two or three, and never finds the confidence to let them out of the desk drawer.

I guess it is the latter, because the jerks who talk about writing but never write really rub me the wrong way. It’s why I never called myself a writer until I had work out there for others to evaluate. Even now I hesitate to use the term. But when I am with other writers and can share the common experience, I start to feel like that dorky kid in the glued-on beard center stage as The Man Who Came To Dinner. A 16-year-old playing a 60-year-old man. Pathetic and weird, out of place and uncomfortable, but among friends and able to overcome any fear or nervousness with the support of colleagues who understand.

I’m thankful to be invited to the party, even if I only hang out near the back next to the DJ and don’t talk to anyone. (more true life stories!) Being inside where it’s warm and loud and I can hear the laughs is so much better than standing outside where it is cold and dark and you can still hear the laughs.

And sooooo much better than that damn plate of beige food and uncomfortable silences with my Mother at the table.

So yeah, I’ll say it: I’m a writer. A thankful writer.

Eric Beetner is the co-author (with JB Kohl) of One Too Many Blows To The Head and the sequel, Borrowed Trouble. His novellas, Dig Two Graves (Snubnose Press) and Split Decision (#3 in the Fight Card series) will be out later this year. His short stories have been published in D*cked, Pulp Ink, Discount Noir, Murder In The Wind and the upcoming Grimm Tales and Off The Record.


Rebecca Cantrell said...

Wonderful post, Eric!

It reminds me how very grateful I am to be part of such a terrific community!

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Gabi said...

And we're glad to have you. Thanks, Eric. It's nice to remember how lucky we are to be.

Hilary Davidson said...

Great post, Eric! I'm often amazed by what a warm, welcoming place the crime-writing community is. Like you, I'm deeply grateful for it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Eric Beetner said...

Thanks, everyone. A little redundant to say today :) So glad I had a chance to staop and reflect on this topic. I truly am grateful.

Meredith Cole said...

Thanks for being our guest on Thanksgiving, Eric! I, too, am grateful to be part of such a great community.