The business of writing

My new book! Get it on Amazon (currently on Kindle and soon to be on paperback)

I’ve written all my life. As a young kid, I would often write letters to the editor for our local paper, typically to fight over points made by some previous idiot other citizen (which hasn’t changed all that much). I wrote plenty of essays and articles in high school and then college. I had to write plenty of manuals, white papers and technical descriptions for work in the Navy. I wrote over 200 pages for my thesis (which the Naval Postgraduate School controls, otherwise I’d give you a link).

It wasn’t until a few years ago I tried my hand at writing for actual money. I went ahead and published a book on Amazon talking about how to travel in the military. I knew it would never be a best seller, since it had a pretty narrow audience. The point in writing it was not to make a lot of money, rather, it was to learn about how to take an idea and compose it into a book that people other than my friends would be interested in reading and actually pay money to read. It did pretty well for being a simple eBook (and its still available if you want to read it).

Writing that book made me learn how to edit. My wife savagely removed every possible passive sentence from my written words. I learned how to edit out the boring parts, shaving sentences until it was all meat and no fat. I realized that readers don’t want long, incoherent run-on sentences (yes, William Faulkner, that means most of your novels suck), they wanted something interesting and meaningful.

But writing took a back seat for a while. In 2016 I spent 54 days in the NICU with our daughter, Rebecca, who struggled to survive from an early emergency birth, multiple heart defects and Down Syndrome. During that time, I found this blog, and since Peter was advertising for new writers, he said I could compete for a spot. So I wrote a piece about breastfeeding in public, which he was surprised hit a strong note with people. Eventually I made the cut and was able to regularly blog about things outside the Navy.

And then tragedy hit. Rebecca died. To add insult to injury, I was supposed to leave in a week to start house hunting for forever home, since the Navy would allow me to homestead to provide consistent medical care for Rebecca. Despite the agony, I went from planning a funeral to hunting for land to build a home. That journey became surprisingly epic in its own right. I learned some hard lessons about home building, the VA loan process, and city government. I nearly lost my house two or three times, yet somehow I was able to overcome those adversities and succeed.

So I decided to get back to my roots and write a book. By now, I realized people wanted to read stories. They wanted a hero to root for, someone who would overcome harrowing obstacles. But they also wanted this person to be relatable, which meant they had flaws that made it hard to succeed in their quest. People that face no challenges are boring and unrealistic.

That’s exactly what you get with my new book, “To Build a House: My surprisingly epic saga in custom home building.” It’s my tale about navigating the world of true custom home building: from picking a blank piece of land to signing forms, fighting the VA, signing builder contracts, sparring with the local city government, nearly pulling all my hair out, and yet in the end making it all work. Like a good movie, it has highs and lows. It doesn’t dwell too long in sad spots, but neither does it celebrate for long before new challenges appear.

The best part is that its all true. I couldn’t have made it up if I tried. I went back and checked timelines and emails to establish when things really happened. I don’t have to exaggerate, because it really was an epic saga to make it all work. Even better, it’ll be part of a series, because I had to stop the book at some point before it got too long. More “To Build” books will be coming.

Writing “To Build a House” taught me much about myself. I’m hoping the finished product will do the same for you.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. “To Build a House” is available now on Amazon Kindle and will soon have a paper and audio-book version.