Guanajuato, July 2015

About Dave Harmon

writing in the cabin, Pagosa Springs Colorado, summer 2014

I was a reporter and editor for more than 20 years at several Texas newspapers, most recently the Austin American-Statesman. I left journalism in June 2014 to do something a little crazy: spend two years trying to finish a novel set on the Texas-Mexico border. I live in Austin, but I’ll be writing from different places (why not travel when you’ve quit your day job?). First stop: the mountains of southwest Colorado, where friends have graciously allowed me to squat in their little cabin at the end of the road. Summer 2015 destination: The central mountains of Mexico, in the colonial city of Guanajuato where two of my characters begin their journeys.

My goal: to get a novel published before I run out of money for this little adventure.

9 thoughts on “About Dave Harmon”

  1. DK: Best of luck to you.
    You’re doing something I’ve wanted to do for years but, because of the other trappings of life as an alleged “adult,” haven’t, yet.

    My good old friend and confidant Lee Campbell on the Amarillo Globe-News used to answer when asked when he planned to read all the reading material he subscribed to, or bought, or borrowed, “I’m saving ‘em for when I retire.”

    That’s essentially what I’m doing in terms of time–trying to use it when I can, and build up a nest-egg for when I can’t.

    I will tell you, there was a time, when I was “between jobs,” in my early 30s, I thought I might be happy to work on my fiction. Instead, I found myself spending much of my time worrying about my journalism career, and my income (or lack thereof), trying to find full-time work again and wound up engaged to the woman I’ve been married to (and become a parent with) for 23 years.

    But take heart. I have managed to publish not one, but two novels. I first self-published two novels, one of which was picked up by a new publisher interested in shaking up the publishing world in India, of all places–where both of my formerly self-published novels are set (and where, in New Delhi, I used to frequent the old zinc-topped bar of the Imperial Hotel. How’s that for serendipity?).

    And I had a Texas thriller I wrote, set in the Panhandle in the 1980s, that I had gathering dust on a shelf, that I revised and had edited that’s been published solely as an ebook by a Belgian publisher.

    So. It IS possible. It IS possible to be published. And it IS possible to publish yourself. It even IS possible your novel will be such a break-through piece, it takes off and makes up for all the time and money into creating it.

    But I will caution you: write the best you can, get advice, find a decent editor, go to a writing workshop or conference where you can meet other writers and publishers and agents, because, more than a “platform,” the bottom line is and will be in terms of having someone else publish you–your writing has to catch someone’s eye. And one of the best ways of doing that is to meet other writers and publishers and agents.

    And write some short stories. And submit them to literary magazines or anywhere that will either publish them or edit them and then publish them.

    Writing is NOT meant to be a money-generator, so much as it is supposed to be an art form, the generating of an idea in a way that makes readers either think or agree or disagree or argue or feel…something.

    The only ones for whom it really is a money generator, and must be, is the publishers. And agents.

    So, you also unfortunately have to sit down with your manuscript and ask yourself: am I doing this to get rich, as pay-off for my sacrifices and faith in myself, or am I doing this because I really want someone I’m not related to, or even friends with, to read it?

    Midnight in Paris is a great movie. But it is a movie. It is NOT real life. Except: James Joyce was virtually penniless when he arrived in Paris. He is a classic example of someone “living off the kindness of strangers,” as well as friends. He only really became famous thanks to those friends. And he never, really, became rich from his own work. Neither did F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote perhaps one of the greatest mystery novels ever, that is considered classic literature–The Great Gatsby.

    Fitzgerald made the mistake of needing money from his writing.

    That’s NOT to say you won’t. It’s just to say write, well, hard, like you’re on deadline. “Jazz it up, bang it out…and get it in for the home.” When it’s ready, you’ll know. And if it gets rejected, find someone else to consider it, or someone else to help you. The key, as the old man once said when he was young, is “to endure.”

    I learned of your adventure from John Moritz, an old friend and colleague who took me fishing the first day I was out of work, between jobs, and about to leave Texas.

    Terin Miller

    1. Hi Terin, and thanks for all the insight and advice. I’ve already started the networking — I went to the Writers League of Texas conference last month and met a lot of writers, editors and agents. So I’ve made some connections. And I agree with you about needing to earn money from writing, I knew going into this that paying the mortgage with fiction is a longshot. But I’m going to take the shot and see what happens. I hope you’ll keep reading.

  2. Dave: You know I will…:)
    Is it a mystery style you’re working on?
    I gotta admit, most success I’ve had meeting and talking with writers has been since moving to the NY area. Writers are everywhere. Publishers, and big agents, not so much.
    That said, technology has made writing in a cabin and being published by a big publisher much more likely than, say, in Thoreau’s day.
    My first agent, when I was growing up in Wisconsin, was based in Milwaukee. But he had a LONG reach.
    As an example, among his clients was Gary Paulsen.
    I hate advocate “Social Media” to a fellow “aging newspaperman” like yourself, but, until I discovered it sucking too much precious writing time, I found Facebook and lately Twitter helpful in making and keeping connections–and “building a platform.” It’s one thing to have a website. It’s another to have people learn about and want to look at it.
    Anyway, hang in there. I’m around. I’ll be reading. Keep writing.

    1. Thanks Terin, you’re very kind. This novel is more of journey story, literary fiction with a strong suspense/thriller element — lots of action. I see you’ve done mystery — set in the Panhandle, no less (the setting for my second blog entry).

      I’m getting on that social media train — I’ve started tweeting and I’m much more active on Facebook than I was. So I’m working on getting the word out on those sites too. I think it is easier to network from anywhere today, and I’m hoping that being in flyover country won’t be too big of a disadvantage. Friends in the business have referred me to several good Texas-based agents who regularly sell manuscripts to the big NY houses.
      Thanks again for reading and for the referral. I’ve heard Lansdale’s name several times before, I appreciate it.

    1. Thanks Andrea, very glad you’ve got my back. And even more glad that you took my spot on the Statesman’s investigative team — my prayer was answered.

  3. So unbelievably stoked for you, Dave. Taking the leap from a career to a calling is scary as hell, but SO worth it. Whatever the outcome, you’ll never forget the journey. Loads of love from the three of us, mate.

    1. Thanks Grant, I like how you put it: from a career to a calling. I may steal that. Hope you’re all well.

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A middle aged guy quits his job to finish his first novel. Will he get published or see his dream crushed like a bug?