Nice to be nice to the nice

When you’re trying to make it as a writer, you bump into people who’ve already made it. Most of the time, these people are nice to you. Sometimes, they even become cheerleaders, helpers and friends.

For Thanksgiving this year, I’m naming some of the people who have been in that latter group for me. They deserve to be thanked because there’s really no reason for them to have helped me out. (I mean, other than that I’m a nice guy.)

Donna McDonald
A few months after I started ManWAR I got an email from Donna telling me that she liked the blog and that I seemed like an honest guy. Over the next several months, she passed the word about ManWAR and Palm Springs Heat on to her following. Which was—and still is—considerable. Donna was already selling thousands of books a month, while I was plodding away at just getting one finished.

Katherine Lowry Logan

Kathy is one of the people I met through Donna. Her first novel, The Ruby Brooch, has been (deservedly) successful in a way every indie author dreams about. But Kathy eagerly accepted the idea of adding samples from each other’s books to our own—a move that can only help me more than it helps her. For now, at least.

Karen McQuestion
I met Karen at a seminar on self-publishing. A few months later, we began carpooling to a screenwriting group in Madison. During those rides, she’s imparted to me lots of knowledge about the business of being an indie author. Which is great stuff to know, since she’s sold at least one gazillion books.

She was also a PSH beta reader who agreed with my obnoxious editor that the opening had to be changed. The resulting first chapter was, predictably, a significant improvement.

Christine DeSmet and Peggy Williams
This writing team were calling producers and agents to pitch their projects before I even had projects to pitch. I volunteered to help with the writers group they’d founded (and the one Karen McQuestion and I carpooled to), the Wisconsin Screenwriters Forum, but that wasn’t why they were nice to me. They were nice to everyone.

They gladly shared information they gleaned from contacts they forged in Hollywood on how to write and what kinds of material various industry players were looking for. Their tips made me a better writer—and led me to two L.A. agents and a development executive who came pretty close to selling a couple of my scripts.

Both are writing novels now and continue to be not only fonts of information and inspiration, but also friends.

Tom Nelson and Victor Hawkins
One of the tips I got from Christine and Peggy was that these self-described good ol’ boys from Tennessee who had written a very successful 1996 TV movie were looking for material to pitch when they met with producers.

They read two very different scripts of mine—a sex- and murder-drenched serial-killer-on-the-web-thriller, and a family comedy. Tom called me back and said, “We really like Terminal Sex. Oh, and, you sent us another script that doesn’t suck: Metal Mom.”

They suggested some tweaks to the former, then took it to NBC, where it got everyone excited. Except for one, last guy who thought no one had ever heard of the Internet and never would.

They remained faithful supporters, though. And friends: Tom once treated my dad and me to a Dodgers game.

Tom Matthews
Tom wrote the screenplay for Mad City starring Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta. I contacted him about speaking to the WSF group in Milwaukee, which he did for free.

After that he read my monsters-and-shit-blowing-up-end-of-the-world script, The Unleashing, and recommended it to his agent. His agent didn’t bite, but that’s not the point. The point is that a guy who had written a script for a movie starring Dustin Freakin’ Hoffman and John Freakin’ Travolta was willing to pass my script along to someone with clout.

I hope some day I’ll have a chance to do for someone else what these people did for me. For now, I say help yourself to another piece of pie, guys.

And thanks.

(And to everyone else I say thanks in advance for buying their books and stuff.)

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