Every writer has those special moments that mark his or her career. Whether big or small, they mean something special and will stay with them forever. Here are Greg Ballan’s Top 5 Happiest Moments of his Writing Career.
1. I glanced over at the clock on my monitor, it was three in the morning. I’d been wrestling with a database for work nearly five hours and getting nowhere. Saturday night (Actually early Sunday morning) was the only real quiet time I could find in our noisy household of two teenagers, a live in Mother-In-Law and a toddler that was on a reverse sleeping schedule. The stress of managing work/ home and adjusting to another child plus trying to find some motivation to finish a manuscript I’d begun was starting to weigh me down. After my horrible experience with a previous publishing enterprise, and the endless waiting to hear back from a publisher on my submitted manuscript continually had me on edge. I was at the point of throwing in the towel and giving up on writing completely.
I was mentally exhausted and my eyelids felt like 400 grit sandpaper. I’d tackle this project after I grabbed a few hours of sleep. Out of habit I checked my E-mail one last time and there it was, sitting in my in box; that e-mail from LBF Publishing that I’d been waiting for yet dreading since I’d put all my hopes into this one basket. My mouse arrow hovered over that e-mail for a good thirty seconds as I worked up the courage and finally made that all important double click. My heart was beating like a trip hammer as the email opened, there were the words I’d only dreamt about. YES! LBF loved my story, they loved the setup and the concept. This final sentence was “Great job!” I felt fifty pounds of gloom melt off my shoulders and a sense of real pride, a publisher found merit in my work. I forwarded the e-mail to a few close associates who’d supported and encouraged me, telling them my dream had come true. A minute later I got an e mail back from my dear friend and author, Ed Williams. Congratulations you’re going to be a published author. I am so proud and happy for you.” I still have both e-mails and will never delete them. I value my friend’s wisdom. His guidance and encouragement was vital in making my book a success and the kind words of praise from Jackie, the publisher at LBF was the shot in the arm my sagging confidence needed. This was truly the happiest moment in my writing career – the night my manuscript was accepted by a real publisher. All the headaches and prior battles evaporated, I had taken the first step on what was to become a fantastic journey I’m still travelling.
2. The slight May breeze cooled the nervous sweat pouring from my scalp like a fountain. What in the hell was I doing at a Romance Writers convention? I had no business being here. I was about to meet my publisher face to face and some well known authors. I was a writer, yes, but not in league with the ladies I’d be meeting let alone meeting the people who actually brought my work to life. I walked into the hotel and slowly walked up and down the corridor, “Greg?” I heard someone call out. My stomach lurched a bit, and I turned, it was Leeann Burke, my publisher. I took a gulp of air, walked over whispering prayers, “God! PLEASE don’t let me make a jackass of myself or say something totally stupid,” which I have been known to do on occasion. I made it through the introduction without sounding like a moron . . . score one for me! I met Joanna D’Angelo, who was just as nice in person as in her e-mails. My mind puts voices to people as I read their e-mails, I had created a light, lilting tone for Joanna based on our back and forth e-mails and I was pleased to see I had come very close to her actual voice. We all boarded a shuttle and headed off to have dinner. Me, in the company of the Editor in Chief and CEO of Lachesis Publishing plus two very successful well published authors.
Despite my nerves the evening was amazing! Leanne and Joanna were simply spectacular; and talking with Hannah Howell was amazing. I was finally able to relax and enjoy the great company as we all laughed and conversed over several topics and Joanna served as the referee never letting the topics get too controversial or serious . . . I’ll never forget her catch phrase when things got potentially political; “Cats . . . let’s talk about cats!” I had a wonderful evening and actually felt like I belonged. I felt like a real writer for the first time and that moment of realization was something I’ll always treasure. I also managed to grab a ‘selfie’ with Leanne on the way to dinner.
3. I’d spent three years working on the “Lost Sons” (Viking warrior) project, my boldest undertaking so far, and an attempt to move beyond the characters of “Hybrid.” Lost Sons is a complex tale of intertwining characters and motivations, a character study of human nature embedded within a Science Fiction tale rather than the flat out action of Hybrid and Hybrid: Forced Vengeance. I wasn’t sure how my test readers would react to such a different type of story. I sent out the five hundred pages to my fifteen person test group and waited. After two days I got my first e-mail; “OMG! I Love this so far.” A few days later four other people weighed in on the story, all positive. After a month of back and forth with my test group I had received favorable responses to my attempt at creating a ‘George R. R. Martinesque’ tale of depth and complexity. I took a risk and stretched my creative muscles and was rewarded by positive feedback from a very diverse and discerning group of readers. I needed the validation and the reassurance that I could spin a complicated yarn that would make a reader pause and contemplate alternate possibilities in the evolution and development of humanity. I took a step out of my comfort zone and was rewarded with a well received story that will eventually make its way to the reading public.
4. I was invited to be the guest of honor at a book club. A family friend had recommended my second novel as the chosen read for his group. Since I lived in the next town over he decided it would be a huge bonus to have the author of their book in attendance. I graciously accepted the invitation; anyone who’d purchased twenty copies of my book at one time deserved an in-person thank you.
I arrived a bit late due to a case of nerves and found a crowd of people crammed around a long table, all with copies of Hybrid: Forced Vengeance. The books looked like they’d been through a war . . . littered with yellow sticky notes, curled covers and well worn bindings. This was a serious crowd! My friend had gone all out even serving my main character’s favorite foods which happened to be my favorites. I was seated at the head of the table and these people treated me like I was a celebrity. I spent a few minutes autographing books, shaking hands and even getting a hug or two. The book discussion began and I was amazed at how different people interpreted the saga of Erik Knight and what motivated him to act. I listened intently as I scarfed down all of my favorite foods. I happily provided insight to the story as well as my motivations for different scenes in the book and engaged each question that came my way. The group was thrilled to actually get the answers and insight from the author, something that usually didn’t occur during a book club meeting. Three hours passed quickly and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting people who considered themselves ‘Fans’ of my work. I once again shook hands and exchanged some more hugs. I looked over at my friend and his wife – who were smiling from ear-to-ear. They said this was the best book club in years. I was glad for them but even happier for me; I saw firsthand how my words and tales had an impact on readers and how much deep insight the written word could invoke in people. I drove home feeling really good about the story and would always remember that night where I was a pseudo celebrity.
5. This is probably the most important moment for me personally as a writer, the completion of Hybrid: Armageddon’s Son. I take great pride in finishing another tale of Erik Knight but this story had a more personal significance. This story was a tribute to my father. I’ve made no secret that the character of Erik Knight is based on me in my early twenties and the character of Martin Denton is based on my father, James Ballan. I lost my father when I was twenty-four years old, he died suddenly and I never got the chance to tell him how important he was in my life or how honored I was to be his son. There’s a scene in Armageddon’s Son between Erik and Martin where they admit that they have a father and son type of relationship. Erik says the things to Martin that I wish I would have been able to say to my dad before he passed. In a way the scene is a tribute to my father and allows me the chance to say the things to my dad I never got to say when he was alive. There’s never perfect closure when a family member passes but in the dialogue between these two men who’ve shared so much, have such contrasting personalities yet complement each other, is my way of honoring my father. Seeing this scene in the pages of a book will be me paying a long lasting tribute to the man who taught me so much and will, without a doubt, be the happiest moment I’ll ever have as a writer.