I wrote earlier in this blog about my addiction to writing. I’m asked periodically how I find time to write. My answer is that it’s the other way around: I have to find time to do things other than write.
All well and good until the publication of Last of the Annamese. That event brought an appreciation for an activity called promotion, consisting of presentations, readings, and book signings. Lots of them.
Granted, promotion activities only come once or twice a week. The worst I faced was four in one week. But they all demand preparations and travel time.
Preparation includes practicing. Presentations require the most rehearsing. I go over the material I’m presenting three or four times before each appearance so that the delivery will be smooth and devoid of slip-ups. The presentation I do most often is on my living through the fall of Saigon and escape under fire after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets. The full story of my working under cover in Saigon was declassified at the beginning of 2016, and I’ve now done the presentation more than forty times. Nevertheless, I have to practice before each.
I also do a presentation for writers on fiction craftsmanship. That requires more practice because I do it less often.
Then there are speeches and talks. Veterans and active duty Marines enjoy my stories and regularly ask me to speak.
Even readings from Last of the Annamese need preparation and practice. I never read from the printed book—too many chances for mishaps. I always print out what I’m going to read in 16-point typescript and rehearse several times.
The only events that don’t require practice are book signings. For those, all I have to do is sit there and try not to look glum.
For every public appearance, I have to look my best. Where appropriate—which means nearly always—I wear a suit and tie for presentations and readings. That means keeping my clothes clean and pressed, my shoes shined, and my beard and hair neatly trimmed.
Travel is a big time consumer. The furthest away I’ve gone for an appearance is to New Jersey, the closest twelve miles from home. I generally have to arrive thirty minutes to an hour in advance of the scheduled event, and don’t leave until well after it’s completed.
The net result is lack of time, especially for writing. In some ways, this blog is a God-sent because I have to write for it most days, whether I have time or not. So I get to do some writing every day. But my novels-in-the-works are suffering from neglect. I literally have no time to spend on them most weeks.
Maybe things will improve during the summer. My calendar for August is actually blank. But then the pace picks up in September. I’m already booked for a series of events up to December.
If I get another book published between now and then, I’ll have to stop writing altogether.