Why be a writer when it costs you time, money and leaves you open for criticism? Because …

My journey as a self-published author really began more than 30 years ago. A college dropout, with very little education or ambition to show for it, I decided my only option was to join the military. With my background in art and writing, I was offered the chance to be a Navy Journalist. I jumped at the opportunity and enlisted.

During my first few years in the Navy, I got married and started my career aboard the aircraft carrier USS FORRESTAL, stationed in Jacksonville, Florida. I also began a steady diet of playing Dungeons & Dragons with friends, to pass the time during those long deployments at sea. Back then, before video game consoles, the internet and satellite TV, D&D was the only distraction available to pass the time.

That’s where my stories began to develop. You see, when you’re spending a large number of off duty hours playing D&D, missing your wife and newborn daughter while deployed thousands of miles from home, it can mess with your head. In my case, I started having a recurring dream about me and my wife, trapped on an island filled with magical fantasy creatures. The dream changed as my children grew older, they started coming into my dream. Finally, I decided I had to start writing it all down.

During my last deployment in 2001, I started developing the story of Forever Avalon. I used my family as inspiration for the family in my novel, including using their middle names as the names of my characters. It took me a few years to really develop the story until it was finally completed in 2004. The funny thing is, when I finished the novel, I stopped having the dream. It seems there was a purpose to it after all.

From that point on, it was just a matter of finding a publisher. I sent out my manuscript to various publishers but got rejected multiple times. I was finally contacted by James A. Rock Publishing and they offered to publish my book, for a price. Now, I didn’t know a lot of self-publishing at that time and it seemed to be a great opportunity. They helped me get my novel in the proper format, had an artist do the cover and put my book online.

The first thing I discovered about self-publishing was that the publishing companies are not book editors and they don’t really edit manuscripts. After Forever Avalon was published, I sent copies of my book to all my family. My mother, bless her heart, sent me two pages of spelling and grammatical errors she found in the book. That was a truly humbling experience. My publisher let me pull the book, make the proper edits and then sent it back out.

The next thing I discovered about self-publishing is that publishers don’t publicize your novel. I spent every minute of my time calling book stores to see if I could set up a book signing, contact and pay people to review my novel, and set up social media to advertise my book. You wanted to be just a writer, but I discovered that in the world of self-publishing, you have to be a jack-of-all-trades instead.

I took the lessons learned from my first novel and applied it to my second one when I self-published The Dark Tides. That brings me to my third lesson in self-publishing … MONEY. You have to invest a lot time and money into getting your work out there for that slim possibility someone will notice you and maybe, just maybe, you can go from self-published author to best-selling author. That’s the dream but, unfortunately, it’s not always the reality.

Self-publishing can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive, but in all honesty, I wouldn’t change a single thing. Even if one or two people read my book and fall in love with the stories and the characters I created from that dream all those years ago, it’s worth it to me. I will continue to strive to be a storyteller to those who will listen to me.

Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.

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