Well, after jumping into cold water, mud, more cold water, more mud, crawling through dark tunnels, getting shocked by electric wires, and hiking and jogging up and down some pretty steep and gravelly hills, I completed the whole thing with two of my friends. You see, it's nearly impossible to complete Tough Mudder on your own. Due to the mental and physical challenge of most of the obstacles, most individuals can't complete them alone. In some places, our team of three wasn't enough, but we got help from our fellow Mudders. I'm proud of myself and my team for making it through. At the end of the day, wearing the bright orange headband they gave me at the finish line and drinking the best beer I've had in my life, I felt a sense of accomplishment paralleled by two other experiences in my life: Watching my son being born and hitting the top ten in an Amazon bestseller list.
On the way home, my mind flittering about in an exhausted stream of consciousness that would have done Faulkner proud, I realized that the Darwinian struggle of survival in the self-publishing/Indie writer food chain is kind of like running Tough Mudder - only on a longer time frame and it requires a much broader skill set if you're going to try and go it alone. Just like being and Indie writer, it's possible to succeed as an individual going through a Tough Mudder course; However, you're much more likely to have a rewarding experience as part of a team - even if it's just for moral support.
For example, one of the obstacles is called "Walk the Plank." You climb a fifteen foot wall to a platform, then jump off the platform into muddy waters. The platform is big enough and sturdy enough to hold about fifty people at a time. One girl near me on the platform was flipping out about the jump. She was going to back out, climb back down the wall, and not jump in the water. Part of the Tough Mudder pledge is, "I will help my fellow mudders complete the course." The girl was not part of my team, but she was a fellow mudder. I stopped her, saying something like, "Naw, you can do it, it's easy. Only a couple of feet down. Just one step off, you'll be done in no time." At which point, I launched myself off the edge. As I was climbing the rope net out of the water, I saw her swimming up behind me. She gave me a big hug, thanked me, and told me I was awesome. For those of you who aren't writers, there are a lot of moments for us that hold the same kind of fear as events like these. In times like those, when that fear grips our chest with an ice cold dread, we think, "Why did I ever think I could actually make anything with this writing stuff?" we need the same kind of moral support from someone playing the game as we are, someone who knows.
I've been a part of several teams in the Indie writer game. My current team is a little group of writers I put together called the Genre Underground. Like my Tough Mudder team, it's small, but we're strong and growing. We've had some obstacles, but that's how it is with any goal worth achieving. We'll always have stumbling blocks, just like with Tough Mudder; because, even when its over, it's not really over. You see, my family is moving right now. So, the morning after I returned from my physically, mentally, and emotionally draining day on Saturday, I was schlepping boxes and furniture from the old house to the new. When you hit a milestone in writing, it's never over. There's the next book to write, the next blog tour to arrange and carry out, or the next one star review to get over.
The biggest thing stumbling block that we've come across is with our mission statement, which I think is a good one: "Fitting the right book with the right reader. Dedicated to finding you the very best Indie and small-press science fiction, fantasy, and horror." My goal with the Genre Underground is to create a community as supportive and dedicated to the success of quality Indie and small-press genre fiction as the founding members of the Genre Underground.
Here's the catch. One of the other parts of the Tough Mudder pledge is, "I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time." I'll be the first one to tell you I love to sell my books. I want to make my living as a writer, and I do a lot of promoting my books outside of the Genre Underground, and yes, I founded the Genre Underground to help promote my books in a round about way. BUT, more to the point, I felt that readers needed somewhere to go to find the quality writing going on in science fiction, fantasy, and horror that's not coming from the big traditional publishing houses in New York. I write genre fiction because I'm a genre fiction reader and fan. I'm more interested in the Genre Underground becoming a community of readers, whether or not some of them also happen to be writers, interested in discussing quality writing going on in the Indie genre scene. I'm fairly certain that I can say the same for the other Genre Underground writers. There's some good, really good, fantastically great, like holy-crap-why-isn't-this-writer-better-known great books out there. We all want to know about them.
So, to help plant he seed of this community I hope the Genre Underground will grow into, we're having an event throughout the month of October on the Genre Underground website. It's a little something we're calling Trick AND Treat. We're getting a bunch of Indie and small-press writers - some Genre Underground, some not - to do a blog swap at the end of the month, with a Halloween twist: We're not going to tell you who is swapping blogs with who. Part of the fun is you guessing. The treats come with the prizes from each writer, with a massive GRAND PRIZE going to be person who has the most correct guesses. We don't have all the prizes solidified quite yet, but there's something for everyone, readers and writers alike, including a book distribution package from Bookbaby and a Kindle Fire.
Trick AND Treat is going to be loads of fun, with tons of great blog posts by a bunch of great writers, great prizes, and above all, great new books for readers to discover. Keep checking back at the Genre Underground website for further details, we'll be updating everything almost daily throughout the month of October. It may be a bumpy road at first, hell, maybe all month long, but it's going to be an adventurous bumpy road full of stories we'll tell later about how crazy we all are. Whether you're a reader or a writer, Come be part of the adventure now, rather than hear about it later!