I wrote my novel while deployed and I kinda miss it

In 2018, I was hand-picked by my U.S. Army Reserve battalion to deploy overseas in support of the Special Operations Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve. This is the coalition of countries responsible for assisting local partner forces to eliminate ISIS. Our unit was responsible for providing photo, video, and media support for Kuwait, Iraq, and Syria.

Once we arrived at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, the unit was divided into different areas of operation. Many stayed in Kuwait to provide analysis in the joint operations center, a few were sent to Iraq to provide coverage of partner force training, and I was sent to Syria — the front line of the ongoing war — with one other soldier.

In Syria, we split up again. My counterpart remained in the task force headquarters and I traveled throughout the country like a military nomad to embed with various Special Forces, Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations troops. I took photos of everything from rebuilding hospitals and basic infrastructure to the mortarmen and artillery troops providing indirect fire for the Syrian Democratic Forces as they liberated ISIS-controlled towns and villages.

It was a unique experience for me in my military career. For six months, no one from the chain-of-command checked in on me (which, looking back on it was really fucked up considering I was the only one in the unit on the front line of the war). I didn’t mind, though. In fact, it was the best thing to happen to me.

Special Operations is different from the conventional army. Rather than being sticklers for proper military etiquette — saluting officers, standing at parade rest, etc. — these soldiers did something that would probably cause most sergeants major to bust a blood vessel, they treated everyone as an adult. It was easy, really: do your job, don’t be an idiot, and carry your weight.

So, how does all this work into my writing? Well, before I left the United States, I had an idea: I was working on building a parenting blog for fathers and decided to include a special section called Deployed Dad, where I would chronicle what it was like to be a father downrange.

Unfortunately, Syria, being an austere battleground, didn’t have the blazing high-speed internet connection to support this endeavor (seriously, in some places it would take days to download an ebook on my Kindle).

So, rather than trying to fight that fruitless effort, I decided to switch gears and work on another project I’d shelved more times than I can remember: writing my novel.

Until this deployment, my writing career had been something of a flimsy pipedream. I’d always been a storyteller; I loved creating epic fables about mystical creatures or exciting adventures about traveling through space. But I didn’t get serious about writing until my freshman year of high school.

In English class, we were given the assignment to write a five-page mythological story. While my classmates created typical parody stories, like the Adventures of Viagra-Man, I ended up penning a fifteen-page companion story to the Odyssey which told the tale of Odysseus’ best friend Jax, who set sail in search of his king when his fleet didn’t return home from Troy.

It was because of this, (as well as many other subsequent stories and the fact I hate doing math — another story for another day, perhaps) that I decided I wanted to be a writer. Unfortunately, after I finished college in 2009, the U.S. was in the middle of an economic depression and jobs for English majors were slim.

Looking back on it, I wish I could’ve used this newfound free time to focus on my writing, but I guess the fear of not knowing how to pay my bills, covered with a healthy coat of self-doubt and imposter syndrome, was enough to force me to shelf every project I ever tried to start.

So, anyway, there I was: basically alone in a foreign land, no internet, and the only other tangible forms of entertainment revolved around exercising or locking myself in a bathroom stall for as long as my imagination would hold out. As tempting as indulging in these simple pleasures sounds, I decided to use what free time I had to cozy up on whatever bunk, litter, or ground real estate I could claim and dig into my writing.

Working on my book turned into a great way to decompress from a long day of convoys and patrols. And, without the distractions of worrying about my family, maintaining a house, or leading subordinate soldiers, I was able to devote as much time as I wanted to my craft. In the nine months I was deployed, I finished The Probability of Time and about half of the sequel.

It may sound weird, but being in a warzone allowed me the time to actually finish the first draft of my novel and stave off the self-doubt I had about my abilities. Once I was able to type the end, I knew the dream I had of becoming a writer was possible.

It’s been more than two years since I’ve returned home. That first year back, I dedicated my writing time to editing and polishing the novel for eventual publication. Now, I have dug back into the writing — working on continuing the draft of the sequel — but time, unfortunately, isn’t something I have an abundance of anymore and the writing process is slower than I want.

I work a fulltime job, I have a beautiful family, and responsibilities to accompany both. With a newborn, sleep is inconsistent. With work (especially during the COVID-19 pandemic), I have been extremely busy. With a preschooler, the house is in a constant state of disarray with a seemingly never-ending stockpile of toys and art projects.

To be clear, I would never willingly give up the time I have to spend with my family. The situation revolving around why I was selected to deploy was a whole ugly situation in itself, but I won’t get into that here. What I will say is being away from my eldest son for almost a year was heartbreaking and the stress on my family was unnecessary.

However, as I sit down every night after the family is fast asleep and I crack open my laptop, I often find myself reminiscing about being over there. Things were simple and I had complete control of myself and my time. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t put my family through that experience again if I can help it. But if I’m being honest, I do kinda miss it.

Want more content like this? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter to get new content sent right to your inbox!

#mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; } /* Add your own Mailchimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block. We recommend moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */
* indicates required
First Name *
Last Name *
Email Address *
Phone Number
//s3.amazonaws.com/downloads.mailchimp.com/js/mc-validate.js(function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[1]=’FNAME’;ftypes[1]=’text’;fnames[2]=’LNAME’;ftypes[2]=’text’;fnames[0]=’EMAIL’;ftypes[0]=’email’;fnames[4]=’PHONE’;ftypes[4]=’phone’;}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true);

Six-Month KDP Notebook update

This past December, I wrote a post about how I created several notebooks using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I was inspired for the idea by a number of TikTok and YouTube videos that suggested I could make passive income (thousands of dollars according to the creator) and figured, what the hell have I got to lose?

Well, almost six months have passed since I uploaded the original batch, so here’s an update:

When I started this experiment, I needed to start with a baseline of how I define idle income. The original creator mentioned he invested hundreds of dollars in ads on Amazon to sell his products. But I wanted to see if true idle income was possible, so I opted to upload the notebooks and step away.

I’ve studied the Amazon algorithm and knew it would be difficult to find success with this tactic, but notebooks are popular (especially among writers) so the only thing this was going to cost me was a little bit of time to design the books.

If you’re curious how I created these notebooks, go check out the original post.

So, after six months, how much money have I made off my notebooks?

Drumroll please …

Nothing. I have not sold any notebooks in six months.

Okay, so you’re probably thinking this experiment was a bust and you’re right (kind of). By my definition of idle income – investing no money or time into the product after its created and uploaded – this appears to be a failed endeavor. However, I can’t dismiss the alleged success of the original creator.

Want to see my notebooks? Click here.

To the best of my knowledge, he did not do any active promotion of his notebooks outside of ads. He still achieved idle income, he simply added one more step of establishing an ad campaign so Amazon would promote the books on his behalf.

I think the next logical step in this experiment is to build my own ad campaign to see if passive income is possible with investment. What do you think? Are you interested in the possibilities of passive income using KDP notebooks? Let me know in the comments if you think I should go this extra step.

What happened when I spammed porn bots with links to my book?

Several years ago, I installed Snapchat on my phone to see if I could incorporate it into my marketing campaign for the company I was working for. After fumbling around the app for a few days, I uninstalled it because, well, I just didn’t understand it. (yeah, my inner-boomer was showing)

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, I decided to re-install it after a conversation with my current employer because (surprise, surprise) we wanted to see if we could use it to effectively market to our target audience.

When I signed in, I discovered that I had several pending friend requests (weird, I thought I needed friends for that *insert sad emoji face*). Most of the names were unfamiliar, so I deleted those, but several looked like they could’ve belonged to someone I met in the past, so I decided to accept them.

As you can probably deduce from the title of this blog post, they were not, in fact, people I knew. My messages were immediately spammed with links to websites like OnlyFans and other *spicy* content.

If you’ve been following me for any duration of time, you know I’m not one to shy away from outside-the-box book marketing techniques and this was no different. I had started to delete the messages and unfriending the accounts, but then I had an idea.

The popularity of websites like OnlyFans skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to people losing their jobs, so I think it was a fair assessment that these accounts, while most likely automated, were controlled by someone legitimately trying to make a living on the platform.

Although the average OnlyFans users makes about $150 per month, those in the top 10% are known to make between $5,000 and $100,000 per month. Now, is the top 10% using Snapchat to try and drive traffic to their site? Probably not. But what about the top 50%? No idea, but just as these people had the courage to shoot their shot, I decided to shoot mine, too.

I opened the remaining chats and, rather than clicking on their links, I sent them a link to where they could buy my book on Amazon. And do you want to know what happened?


You’re probably not surprised. I’m not either, but it certainly would’ve been an incredible story to tell to my fellow writers. I can imagine it now:

How’d you sell so many books?

Oh, it was easy, I just sent my link to sex workers!

Anyway, the morale of this story is: spamming porn bots is not an effective form of marketing your book. However, I did notice that Snapchat has changed a lot since I first installed it so many years ago. Have you ever used the app to promote and market your book? Let me know how in the comments!

Success! You're on the list.

Celebrate International Women’s Day with these incredible books

International Women’s Day is an annual event to celebrate the achievements of women. While much of the day’s celebrations bring attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women, I thought I might chime into the conversation to bring awareness to these incredible authors and their work.

Please feel free to drop more names in the comments below!

The Fires of Treason by Michele Quirke

Okay, full disclosure here, I haven’t finished reading The Fires of Treason (sorry, I’m a really slow reader). However, I’m adding her book to this list because she is, without a doubt, one of the most supportive members of the Indie Writing Community. If you go follow her on Twitter, you’ll see she constantly promoting other authors and reading their work.

From what I’ve read of her book so far, it’s a fantastic fantasy story that’s driven more by plot than by excessive details. I would encourage each of you to go pick up a copy of The Fires of Treason and, while you’re at it, go pre-order her second book in the series: Embers of Fate.


Princess Elizabeth has always idolized and supported her older brother, but when Greg is accused of treason and banished, her loyalty to him is tested in ways she never could’ve imagined. As she leaves her luxurious lifestyle behind to join him in exile, she must learn to cope with the everyday struggles of the working class, all while keeping her true identity a secret. Facing new hardships and the looming threat of execution, Elizabeth will need to toughen up if she has any chance of surviving outside the palace walls.

Prince Gregory spent his entire life trying to prove himself worthy of the crown until his banishment releases him of all the pressures and obligations that have chained him down. Although he has no intention of raising an army to defend his birthright, he soon learns that not everyone is content to let him walk away from the throne. With his sister’s safety and well-being to consider, Gregory must make a decision that will change both their lives forever.

The Ancient Ones by Cassandra L. Thompson

Cassandra is another author and entrepreneur I follow on Twitter and have great respect for. Why you might ask? Well, she’s done what I hope to some day accomplish: launch her own publishing house (Quill and Crow Publishing House) and have it publish more than just her own work.

I have this book in my to be read pile and I’m excited to dive in to it. If her stories are as dark and brooding as she presents herself online, I think it will be one hell of a ride.


Some things are not meant to die…

When David stumbles upon a tragic young woman in a sordid Limehouse pub, he has no idea she’d recognize him as the last vampyre alive, nor that she’d be the one to pull out his story. Yet as he recalls his life from the sweltering vineyards of Ancient Rome to the cold horrors of Medieval Romania – as well as his tumultuous past with the mad and mysterious Lucius – he realizes she is much more than what she seems. Gothic horror and mythological fantasy blend seamlessly together in this thrilling adventure, breathing new life into vampire lore as it reveals its true origins. The Ancient Ones is a tale of myth, mayhem, and magic…with a dash of romance that bites.

The Drift by Casie Aufenthie

I could talk about this book. Or, I could let the reviews do the talking for me: “the best sci-fi I have ever read”, “exciting, touching, and beautifully crafted”, and “a skillful blend of action, world building and romance with great characters”, are just a few of the five-star reviews (which make up 88% of all her reviews!) for The Drift. If you enjoy science fiction, go buy this book, you won’t be dissatisfied.


In a future where the human race has split into three species, the mentally-evolved Illuminatos have conquered the other two in a brutal Evolutionary War. Now, the seven most powerful Illuminatos, the Council, control the Earth, ruling over the other two human species through violent oppression.

As one of the defeated physically-evolved Corporis, Samara lost everything: her family, her freedom, and her will to fight. But when her master, Lord Wyatt Faraday, commands her to find the mysterious leader of the Resistance, Tristan, everything she thought she knew is challenged.

Tristan is an Illuminatos who has turned his back on his own kind to follow his principles. An idealist hoping to restore peace and equality for all species, he cannot escape his past, and it may force him to make a terrible choice.

Their meeting will change the world, but will it be for the better?

Behind Blue Eyes by Anna Mocikat

This is another book I’m really excited to dig into in the near future. I see it all over my Twitter newsfeed and bought it awhile ago as part of a bulk purchase of indie books. With a 4.4 star rating with 193 reviews, I think it’s safe to assume there are many satisfied customers with this one. And, with reviews like “Mocikat is the queen of cyberpunk” and “Blade Runner meets John Wick”, this is definitely one book you’ll want to pick up, too.


In a future world ruled by warring mega-corporations, cyborg Nephilim believed she was fighting a righteous cause.

As a powerful, cybernetically enhanced elite soldier her job is to do all the dirty work for the mega-corporation she belongs to. She and her elite cyborg squad are deployed on the most dangerous missions – to protect Olympias from threats outside and inside at any cost.

One day, a malfunction in her implants separates her from the all-controlling grid. For the first time in her life, Nephilim is free.

She learns that everything she has believed in all her life is a lie and decides to defend her newfound freedom.

But Metatron, the leader of her unit, has very special plans for her future and won’t let her get away.

Soon, Nephilim finds herself hunted by the killer squads she once belonged to. She’s the best of them but will her skills be enough to survive?

Blade Runner meets John Wick with a badass female lead!

Sacrilege by Barbara Avon

I picked this book up awhile ago but only got around to reading it recently and I’m kind of upset I didn’t pick it up sooner. This book gave me serious Edgar Allan Poe vibes, so if you like dark, psychological stories, this is definitely one you should consider.


“The monster isn’t beneath the bed. It is in the mirror swallowing at all the vile things it wants to say, choking on bile to make them go away.” Wayward priest Cris Corelli rids himself of the sacred collar and leaves town, boarding the midnight train with no destination in mind. Satan is following him – lurking in the shadows. Corelli finds himself at an unassuming boarding house run by beautiful, yet tortured, Jules. She has her own secrets. They are the kind that echo in the mind, despite the screams that are meant to drown them. On Thanksgiving Day, 1985, Cris and Jules are bonded by a senseless act of violence that brings the small town to its knees. They indulge in drugs and alcohol to numb the pain, and together, they teeter on the edge of darkness. What they don’t yet know, is that Satan still lurks.

I know there are many more amazing women authors out there. So, please, let me know who some of your favorites are in the comments!

Success! You're on the list.

Join me in my 8th year of Extra Life

For the eighth straight year, I have enrolled to participate in Extra Life, the 24-hour gaming charity event to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. And once again, I have opted to support the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland, Maine.

Last year, we raised $370 dollars for the hospital – 100% of all donations go directly to the hospital to help sick and injured kids. This year I’m opening my fundraiser earlier in the year in hopes of hitting a fundraising goal of $1,000

This organization has become a really special part of my life. A few years ago, I wrote a blog about why I participate in the program. I encourage you to check it out if you’re interested in all the details, but to summarize: I was a patient at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital as a kid and after I discovered Extra Life, I saw it as an opportunity to give back to the organization that saved my life.

Since joining Extra Life, finding ways to help children has become something of a mission of mine, but I’ve mostly been on this journey alone. In 2022, I’m hoping to be more involved in the community and hopefully crush this fundraising goal.

Part of the reason I’ve been so reluctant to be more involved until this point was because as a dad, an author, and a full-time worker, it’s difficult to find time to game. So, this year I’m thinking of incorporating my writing into part of the fundraising process and writing a gaming-inspired short story and use the proceeds to donate to the campaign.

I would also love to get more writers involved in this project and maybe we can put together an anthology of short stories? I may also consider putting a signed copy of my novel up on ebay to raise funds. I’m also open to more ideas. Let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions on great ways to raise money for this great cause.

Also, if you can spare a dollar or two (no donation is too big or too small), please consider donating to my Extra Life campaign and follow me on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for my newsletter to stay up-to-date on our fundraising progress.

How I made character art for free

I recently started a project on my website called the Grimwicki Database, which is a repository of canonical information regarding characters, events, technology, locations, etc. within my literary universe (it’s still a work in progress, but you can view it here, if you’d like).

I came up with the idea after remembering a similar database used to exist on the Star Wars website, which gave a tremendous amount of background information about everything from the films and books. I thought it would be a neat idea to create something similar so readers have access to more information about my characters and the worlds they live in than what I could fit within the pages of my stories.

As soon as I started this project, I quickly realized I had one major hurdle I needed to overcome: artwork. As an author, I’ve always envied my peers with fans who dedicate their time to create art for the characters in their books. I’ve thought about commissioning art from one of the fantastic artists I’ve met on social media (and I will some day!) but right now my budget is too tight. So what’s a guy to do?

Well, there’s a trend going around on Twitter right now where people are using the Prequel App to turn their profile pictures into cartoons, and that gave me an idea. I’m no stranger to using stock imagery: I use it for work on a regular basis and I used it to create the cover of my novel, The Probability of Time. So, why not use stock images and an app to create character art?

The website I like to use for stock imagery is called Pexels. The photos and videos on this site are free to use commercially and it has a great selection to choose from. All I needed to do was search for photos of people who looked like my characters, upload them to the app (for this project I actually used an app called ToonMe, but there are several you can choose from), and download the final product. Here are some of the results:

I’m really pleased with the results. They’re way better than anything I could create freehand, they didn’t cost me anything to create, it only took a few minutes, and now I have some artwork to use in my database until I can afford to commission someone for artwork.

What do you guys think? Have you ever done something similar to create character artwork? Do you have another method you prefer? Tell me in the comments!

Success! You're on the list.