Eulogy for a Legend

Chances are, you’ve read plenty about what Stan Lee meant to people over the last 24 hours.DSC02394 At the risk of sounding redundant, he meant a lot to me, too.

See, Stan Lee — having been credited with mentally birthing such superhero stalwarts as Spider-Man, Black Panther, the X-Men, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, etc. etc. etc. (in the interest of accuracy, let’s call him the co-creator — because without the work of such men as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, these characters would likely not be what they’ve become). — is who he is because those creations are what they are.

Superhero comic books are as popular and ubiquitous as they are today thanks in large part to Lee. His public persona, his cameos across several different adaptations… it’s probably safe to say that without Lee, the superhero genre and comic books as a whole would not be what they are today.

Lee was not the pioneer. But for a lot of people, he is synonymous not only with Marvel, but with comic books as a whole.

1656330-uncanny_x_men__1963__289I read my first comic book when I was 11. It was issue 299 of The Uncanny X-Men, and as soon as I read that, I decided  that a) I needed to read a lot more X-Men, and b) I wanted to write my own stories. I wanted to be a comic book creator. I wanted to tell stories that thrilled and entertained the way I was being thrilled and entertained.

Lee didn’t write that issue — or pretty much any issue during my lifetime. But he laid that foundation.

I met Lee in 2002, when I was in Los Angeles visiting a friend over summer vacation. He was doing a Q-&-A after a screening of Spider-Man (the first Sam Raimi film), and he just happened to walk into the ArcLight while my friend and I were getting tickets. I’m forever grateful that he took a few moments to speak with me and pose for a picture.

Later that night, I took a picture of Lee with my friend. This being the pre-digital camera, no-smartphone time period, I had to get these pictures developed. The pic of Lee with my friend didn’t develop. I am forever bummed about that.

But Lee, as larger than life as he often seemed, was no different than the rest of us. He loved telling stories. He loved introducing us to characters who were simultaneously out of this world and just like us. It’s often said that DC’s superheroes are gods who become men, while Marvel’s heroes are men who become gods. If that’s true, then Lee is the architect behind that.

I’ve spoken at length about many of my influences. Chris Claremont. Jim Lee (no relation). Michael Turner (RIP). Joss Whedon. Kevin Smith. But I guarantee you every single one of them would (and many have) pointed to Stan Lee as their influence. Lee was almost like the entire comic book community’s grandfather — and this really does feel like we’ve all lost a member of the family.

Lee made quite the impact in his 95 years on this planet, an impact that continues to be felt on the spinner racks and in the movie theaters and on our TV screens and with probably every piece of genre fiction that’s published. I know he’s impacted my work over the years, and I think it would only be fitting if a future book included a Stan Lee cameo of sorts.

It’s the least I can do for a man who played such a huge role in the genre I love.

I’m heartbroken over Lee’s death, but I am buoyed by the outpouring of love that has come his way in the day since — as well as the knowledge that everything he helped create, everything he put in place, will always be there for the rest of us. There will never be another Stan Lee, but there’ll always be a little Stan Lee in all of us.

Excelsior!

SNIPPET: Life at the Speed of Time

This is the first chapter of my short story, “Life at the Speed of Time,” which is featured in the anthology Cracks in the Tapestry, which was released last month. It’s the first Cracks in the Tapestry coveranthology I’ve been a part of, and this story was a lot of fun to write. Enjoy!

The steering wheel shaking in my hands is actually soothing.

It distracts me from the bead of sweat running down the right side of my face. It gives me a reprieve from the oppressive heat in the cockpit, a stifling one hundred and forty degrees according to a thermometer placed on my seat. The cooling unit attached to my helmet gave out back on lap 120, not ideal for a muggy day in central Florida. I can barely make out my crew chief or spotter when they talk into my ear, the roar of my engine drowning them out.

But all things considered, I’m having a good race. Daytona has never been my favorite race track; I don’t care for this style of racing. I’m surrounded by forty of my closest enemies, our beasts of speed inches apart as we barrel along the banking so fast we should be soaring into the air. This is all I’ve known my entire life, but even if I’m more comfortable at a half-mile bullring, this place is the pinnacle of stock car racing.

And I’ve led laps today. The car’s fast. But a bad pit stop thirty laps ago has me stuck in 30th. I have nowhere to run. I’m stuck in the middle of the pack, with cars on either side of me. If one of us sneezes, or someone gets an itchy arm, calamity is sure to follow.

The field barrels into the first turn. To the fans, we’re little more than a blur of color. But with my competitors going as fast as me, I can read every sponsor logo on their quarter panels. Freddy Bocelli, who wrecked me going for the win at Bristol last season, is to my outside. He has a new team this year, but the way his left front tire twitches tells me he still hasn’t learned how to hold a pretty wheel.

To my inside is Stan Gordon. No relation and not even half the talent of the Gordon you’ve actually heard of. He’s only in that car because he has a sponsor – his father’s chain of hardware stores.

Don’t get me started.

The banking gives way and we’re screaming down the backstretch. Only a concrete wall with energy-absorbing protection, a catchfence, and a row of billboards separate us from the airport behind the track.

Three wide middle. Three wide middle.

My spotter, Earl Webber. He’s probably staring at my car through binoculars from his perch above the press box on the frontstretch. I can only see but so much in this car: out the windshield and through my rearview mirror. Earl helps me navigate through trouble and tells me what’s going on around me. His information is paramount, especially here where the drivers can’t get away from each other.

Clear high!

As soon as the words leave Earl’s mouth, I jerk the steering wheel to the right. My momentum carries me past Stan, then I find myself passing two more cars. Finally, I’m getting somewhere. Earl’s in my ear again, but I’m not listening as the banking tilts me going into the third turn. Several rows ahead, I see a car jump out of line on the high side, making it three-wide.

No one goes with him, and he loses several positions.

Ten laps to go.

I curse under my breath. Ten laps?! I thought I had more time.

Clear low!

I turn left. The tires squeal in protest, but the car does what I need it to. Coming off the fourth turn, coming back to the start-finish line, I’ve picked up three more spots. I can feel the air propelling my car forward. I can’t see the air, but I can definitely feel it.

But I do see a car in the infield grass, on its roof and on fire. I blink and shake my head. The vision’s gone.

What the…?

I pass another car going into the first turn, but I have to jerk the wheel to the right when my rear tires lose traction. If I hadn’t caught it, I’d have wrecked at least five or six cars. That’s how close together we are. I catch my breath by the time we’re on the backstretch again; at this late stage, it feels like we’re taking forever to race along this two and a half-mile track.

The image of the burning car returns. But this time, I hear the crunch of warped sheet metal. Someone screams. The sky above is a ghastly mix of coal black and burnt orange.

But as I barrel into Turn 3, the image is gone.

“What the…?”

You okay in there, Randy?

Before I can answer Scott, my crew chief, Earl’s yelling in my ear.

The leaders are wrecking on the frontstretch!

Another scream startles me. I cry out and have to corral the car as it swerves back and forth. No one hits me, and I scrub off enough speed that I’m lingering hundreds of feet behind the pack. The scream returns, louder, and when I squeeze my eyes shut, the car on fire explodes. The driver was still inside.

I know because that’s when the screaming stops.

Randy! Randy?!

Other than Earl’s voice, everything is silent. My car comes to a complete stop by the entrance to pit road. My grip on the steering wheel is so tight my hands start to cramp.

Then I open my eyes.

Nearly half the field is wrecked in the curve along the frontstretch, torn sheet metal and roll cages strewn about the asphalt and infield grass. Safety vehicles have already begun approaching the carnage, and some of the drivers have exited their cars after lowering the black netting over the drivers-side window.

Most of the safety crews are heading for the infield grass. When I see why, my heart stops and my stomach drops. In the grass, there is a car, upside down and on fire. The red No. 54 car, piloted this season by hotshot rookie Chase Flanigan.

Randy, you alright?

I yank the cords from my helmet – both the cooling unit that no longer works and the radio. Gritting my teeth, my heartbeat far quicker than it had been when I was going 200 miles an hour, I pull off my helmet, and the neck restraint device attached to it, and head sock underneath. I dislodge the steering wheel from its column, tear down my window net. The six-point harness trapping me in my cocoon of a seat is the next to go before I pull myself out of the car and run toward the wreckage.

No one sees me. The safety crews and ambulances are too busy tending to the wrecked.

Stock car racing is as safe as it’s ever been. To the point where we sometimes foolishly think we’re invincible. Never mind the guy who at this track a couple years ago hit a concrete wall so hard he snapped both of his legs. Or the fact that our most beloved driver had to hang it up, in part, because of head injuries.

But no one’s died in almost twenty years, so…

The fire’s grown by the time I reach the grass. The car’s on-board extinguishing unit must have broken. I push my way through three safety workers, unable to shake the déjà vu. I gulp down air as fast as I can, willing myself not to drop to my knees and hurl. I’ll be sick later. Right now, I have to get Chase out of that car.

“Hey!”

I ignore the safety worker. Once I’m within feet of Chase’s car, the heat pushes back against me like a wall. I cringe and push through it as best I can, shielding my eyes from the brightness. The smoke is black as night pouring into the sky, and I drop to my knees by the passenger’s side. Peering into the window, I see Chase’s eyes wide as they can go through the visor of his helmet. He stares right at me, tugging on his belts. We’re always told to pull those belts a little bit tighter before the green flag waves; right now, Chase needs them to loosen.

Springing back to my feet, I run across to the driver’s side. One member of the safety crew grabs me by the shoulder. I shake him off and point at the fire. “Put that out!”

No… no no no no no!

Not even five minutes ago, I had seen this exact scene unfold. And the first time Chase screams, I freeze. It’s the exact sound I’d heard just moments before the wreck happened. I still don’t know how it started. I imagine TV will be playing the incident over and over again on a loop, and non-racing media will even pick up on it. Train wreck spectacle, nothing more.

But Chase needs to get out of the car before the worst happens.

Reaching in, I tug with all the strength I’ve got. But those belts won’t budge. Cursing under my breath, I turn my head to cough. The smoke is so bad my eyes are watering. I gag and nearly lose my lunch. But a deep breath keeps me from blowing chunks all over the rookie, and I reach in again with both hands.

Still, the belts won’t move.

“Help!” he screams.

Part of me wants to be sarcastic in return, but the kid’s freaked. As he should be. His car’s on fire and he’s stuck in it. The plume of smoke has grown to the point where the wind gust is carrying it into the grandstands. Fans are fleeing, covering their faces as they seek refuge. Some fans have stuck around, either to get photos or to see Chase emerge from the car.

But if I can’t those belts off…

Three safety workers grab me by the shoulders and pull me away.

“No!” I try to free myself, but a fourth worker joins the fray. “I have to help!”

“There’s nothing you can do!” one worker, his firesuit reading Jenkins, shouts. “The car’s gonna blow at any minute!”

I whirl around in anger. “So you’re just gonna leave him there?!”

Jenkins points, and over my shoulder, I see two men in fireman gear drop to their knees. One reaches in, and after what feels like an eternity, both he and the other fireman begin the process of extracting Chase from the vehicle. What’s left of the crowd roars in excitement when Chase’s head emerges from the window, but his shoulders get caught on the damn belts.

Those six-point harnesses are great when you’re in the car. In a situation like this… my stomach falls again.

The four crewmen who had pulled me from Chase’s car grab me and yank me back again. We retreat to pit road and leap over the wall separating the crews from their pit stalls, and I don’t know why. I trip over the wall and grunt, scraping my hands on the pavement. When I turn around to yell at the crewmen, I don’t see them. Because they ducked.

Then Chase’s car explodes.

He had only been halfway extracted. Both he and the two firemen trying to rescue him are engulfed in the fireball. Fans scream in horror. Fellow drivers fall to their knees on the track.

And I throw up all over a set of unused Goodyears.

 

Like what you read? Check out the rest by picking up your copy of Cracks in the Tapestry, available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions! The anthology also features work from Leslie Conzatti, Arthur David, C. Scott Davis, Benjamin D. Pegg, R. Eric Smith, and Lorna Woulfe.

 

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads, and you can also become a Patron.

COVER REVEAL: Legends of the Gem

Check out the cover for my upcoming anthology, Legends of the Gem, which will release on October 31! Sarah Anderson once again knocked it out of the park!

The Gem of Notna is history’s greatest weapon. In the right hands, it can protect the world Legends of the Gem Final (2)from virtually any threat. In the wrong hands, it is capable of untold destruction. Having found Earth from light years away, the crystal has helped shape the course of human history, millennia in the making.

A young girl who finds herself as ancient Greece’s savior. Warring factions so separate to end a stalemate that a trusted general does the unthinkable. The Inquisition claiming not just people’s minds, but their bodies. A Union soldier who is convinced the ravages of war have driven him mad. Scholars who believe the gem is capable of more harm than good.

All is revealed, in the gem’s ugly glory.

J.D. Cunegan introduces Legends of the Gem, which takes the lore established in his fantasy epic Notna and builds on it, adding context and illustrating just how remarkable the Gem of Notna truly is.

Legends of the Gem releases in paperback and several ebook formats on Wednesday, Oct. 31.

 

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV. Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads, and you can also become a Patron.

Pre-order CRACKS IN THE TAPESTY

Exciting news!Cracks in the Tapestry cover

Cracks in the Tapestry, the first anthology I’ve ever been a part of, is now available for pre-order on Amazon! Cracks in the Tapestry will release on Kindle and paperback on October 21, but you can secure your copy now!

From the book’s Amazon listing:

What happens when the mundane and the fantastic meet? We get Cracks in the Tapestry.

Can a former secret agents sister return from the dead? Bringing with her mysteries surrounding her miraculous return. 
Reverend Josiah takes his message from God to a new planet eager to spread the gospel.
A NASCAR driver discovers there is much more happening on the track then he ever had imagined.
The legend of an ancient warrior who discovers a gift from the gods above.
A scientist discovers something very peculiar about an archaeologist exhibiting 
A newborn siren discovers a man who can resist her song.
A Sioux warrior must face off against the might of the US Military Remnant to defend his home and people. 

Will you peer through the Cracks in the Tapestry

Cracks in the Tapestry collects stories from Leslie Conzatti, J.D. Cunegan, Arthur David, C. Scott Davis, Benjamin D. Pegg, R. Eric Smith and Lorna Woulfe.

My story, “Life at the Speed of Time,” was a blast to write — unlike anything I’ve written before, and the first time I got to work my love for auto racing into my work. I can’t wait for you all to see it.

Click here to pre-order your copy of Cracks in the Tapestry!

 

Official SealBounty has been nominated for a TopShelf magazine Indie Book Award!

It’s a big deal for my debut novel to even be nominated — and there are plenty of perks therein — but if by some stroke of luck I actually win, then there’s no end to the awesomeness that would ensue. Mostly I’m just jacked that someone thought enough of my work to nominate it. That’s pretty damn cool.

Anyway, check it out (and if you haven’t got your copy yet, do so)!

 

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Support J.D. Cunegan on Patreon

Why Superheroes?

While I love a great many different types of stories, the superhero genre has always had a certain appeal to me. After all, I never considered being a writer until I discovered comic books — X-Men, to be exact — and even today, the superhero genre is one in which I proudly plant my flag.Batwoman_(52_11)

Granted, the term “superhero” can have a pretty broad definition. Most will agree the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, and Daredevil are superheroes. But is Batman? Is Spawn? Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The Punisher?

Superheroes are all the rage today, what with the near-ubiquitous nature of superhero films. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically, is largely responsible for the mainstream popularity of the genre. And I think the reason superheroes speak to so many is because they represent a reality in which there’s some semblance of control.

Let’s face it: things are really scary in the world these days. And there isn’t anything the vast majority of us can do about any of it. What can I, just a 36-year-old dude, do about international corruption and espionage? What can I do about school shootings? About the hate that has seemingly run rampant everywhere?

For the most part… not much.

Superheroes leave us feeling less helpless in the face of such horrors. Want the wicked wiped off the face of the Earth? There’s the Punisher. Want to believe it’s possible to exact justice on evildoers in the aftermath of personal tragedy? Maybe Batman’s more your speed.

Bounty-Small

Artist: Kendall Goode (@kendallgoode on Twitter)

Serve your country in spite of not being what one might consider the ideal soldier? Captain America. Want to serve your country and community, even after it’s cast you aside because of who you are? Batwoman. Some mystical ring decides you’re worthy of protecting… oh, you know… space?! Green Lantern.

Superheroes tap into that deep-rooted desire. They show us a reality in which the big scary things can be defeated. They give us hope that the individual can make a difference on the world at large, even when reality continues to slap us in the face and tell us no.

That philosophy guides me every time I sit down to write one of Jill Andersen’s stories. She took up the mantle of Bounty because of her desire to do right by her hometown, her need to serve beyond what she can do with a badge on her hip. Early in her law enforcement career, Jill saw that being a cop only accomplished so much. If she wanted to do more, she had to become more.

Most of us can’t become more. So we turn to stories of those who can.

It’s not about the superpowers or the costumes. Not really. Stripped of the flash and the bright colors and the larger-than-life villains many of them face, superheroes reflect everything we wish we could be — both individually and as a society. We’ll never leap tall buildings in a single bound, and we’ll never lead the wicked in handcuffs to Arkham. But so long as we have heroes who can and do, maybe the world isn’t quite as hopeless as it seems.

Then again… the powers and costumes are pretty kickass, huh?

 

Bounty has been nominated for a TopShelf magazine Indie Book Award!

Official SealIt’s a big deal for my debut novel to even be nominated — and there are plenty of perks therein — but if by some stroke of luck I actually win, then there’s no end to the awesomeness that would ensue. Mostly I’m just jacked that someone thought enough of my work to nominate it. That’s pretty damn cool.

Anyway, check it out!

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Check out Cunegan’s work here.

The Good, the Bad, and the Meh

I’m not at San Diego Comic Con this weekend (some day…), but I’m interested, as always, in the announcements that come from it and surround it in the days before and after the event. This year, three particular announcements/trailer drops have caught my attention — one because of sheer excitement, one because it just looks terrible, and one that — surprisingly — has left me feeling… almost nothing.

Because I try to be a positive guy, let’s start with the good.

Batwoman is coming to TV!

Yes, I know it’s The CW. Yes, I know people have issues with The CW. Yes, I Batwoman_(52_11)realize Supergirl really went sideways when it moved from CBS to The CW. I don’t care. This is Batwoman. By far, my favorite character in the entire Bat-verse. Kate Kane will make her TV debut in a big Arrowverse crossover, before ultimately starring in her own series.

Judging by the character description and the casting call alone, TV’s Kate Kane will be similar to her comic book counterpart, which is a pretty big deal. Batwoman is one of the most prominent LGBT superheroes, an open lesbian who’s also Jewish. Her backstory includes kidnapping, murder, and Kate wanting to serve in the military when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was still a thing.

If the show keeps all of that, and early indications are it will, this series has the chance to be something big. And hey, I’ll care about DC’s TV universe for the first time since Supergirl was still good, so there’s that.

Now the bad… did you see that trailer for Titans? Yeesh…

DC’s no stranger to dark and gritty for the sake of being dark and gritty. But dark and gritty without a point, coupled with long-beloved characters acting out of character, is a recipe for disaster. Titans, a series DC is hoping propels its DC Universe streaming service to popularity, appears to be well on the way to that.

I’m not overly familiar with the Teen Titans’ comic book version, but I do remember the insanely popular Cartoon Network series from the early and mid 2000s. This feels nothing like that, so if you’re looking to Titans for that nostalgia fix… well, you might wanna look elsewhere.

Look, dark and gritty can be excellent — the Daredevil series on Netflix and Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies proved that. But there has to be a point, a philosophy behind it. And “Robin stabbing thugs in the neck and saying ‘fuck Batman'” is not a philosophy.

Hard pass.

Also, Friday saw the announcement that the long-rumored Buffy the Vampire Slayer reboot would be happening, and that Joss Whedon would be involved. Details are scarce at the moment, but the article I linked above did mention that the new Slayer (no word on if she would be Buffy or someone else) would be African-American and that the new cast would reflect our diverse society.

Cue the all-too-predictable outrage over that.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. The above article calls it a reboot, but the description sounds more like a continuation of the Buffyverse, if not necessarily the character. If that’s what this is, then I’m slightly more interested. But if this is in fact a new version of Buffy Summers… I’ve already been on that journey, and as great and formative as it was (you all know how important Buffy and Angel are to me), I don’t need to relive it.

Then again, I don’t need to. If this is, in fact, a true reboot, maybe it can be for a new generation what the original was for my generation. This is a lesson the 2016 Ghostbusters film taught me. I enjoyed that movie, but as someone who grew up on the original, I realized this new version wasn’t for me. It was for today’s youth.

And that’s okay.

My reflex is to be automatically against this reboot, and I admit it’s mostly a “get off my lawn” sort of thing. But the fact is, if this reboot happens, the original will still be there; it’s not like my seven season DVDs will disappear the second the new Buffy airs. And if it’s good, and it inspires a younger generation, then all the better.

I hope it succeeds. But unless it’s a continuation of the lore that simply leans on the Buffy name for familiarity’s sake, I probably won’t be tuning in.

But Batwoman? I’m there, day one.

 

Bounty has been nominated for a TopShelf magazine Indie Book Award!

Official SealIt’s a big deal for my debut novel to even be nominated — and there are plenty of perks therein — but if by some stroke of luck I actually win, then there’s no end to the awesomeness that would ensue. Mostly I’m just jacked that someone thought enough of my work to nominate it. That’s pretty damn cool.

Anyway, check it out!

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Check out Cunegan’s work here.

You Can Write That Novel — Even if it Feels Like You Can’t

I am participating in the Writing Contest You Are Enough, hosted by Positive Writer.

Let me let you in on a dirty little secret:

Bounty FinalFor the most part, I tend to not believe in myself. Not just as a writer, but in general. That’s just how I’ve always been. I tend to be hard on myself, to think I can’t accomplish something, that I’m not good enough — even when there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary.

As I type this, there are five full-length novels on my bookshelf with my pen name on the spine. Those same five novels are also loaded onto my Kindle, as is the short story I re-published back in late April. If there’s one thing I shouldn’t experience self-doubt over, it’s my ability to write a book.

And yet…

The human mind is a strange, fickle thing. Sometimes, it doesn’t work properly. Sometimes, it works against you. One day, I’ll wake up completely content with my station in life; the next, I might wake up desperate to quit my job, go back to bed, and tell all my problems I’ll deal with them later.

I have a ton of book ideas that are in various stages of development. Incomplete manuscripts. Half-baked ideas that haven’t quite gelled into something publishable yet. The inklings of a book plot that refuse to develop into something more substantial. It’s simultaneously invigorating and overwhelming. But here’s the thing to remember:

It can be done. I know because I’ve done it before.

Bounty and Notna are characters and stories I originally created when I was in middle 36384932school (let’s just ignore the fact that was over 20 years ago). They were originally meant to be comic books; I was going to be the next Jim Lee, the next Todd McFarlane. But along the way, I fell out of love with art — then writing.

I eventually got the writing bug back, but not the art bug. Oh, the art bug tried making its return, several times. But the magic was never quite there, even if the stories I mentioned above were. So I began the arduous process of trading in my panels and word balloons for prose.

I won’t lie; it was a difficult process. There were plenty of false starts. There were a lot of sleepless nights where I wondered if maybe these stories weren’t meant to be. But — and if you take nothing else away from this post, this is the important part — I kept plugging away. I kept trying.

And on June 1, 2015, I published Bounty.

Six months later, Blood Ties went live. Six months after that, Behind the Badge. In the span of a little more than a year, I went from unpublished, boy-I’d-love-to-write-a-book-someday to an author with three novels to his name.

This past October, I published Notna, meaning both of my childhood stories were finally out there for the world to see.

I’m not a bestseller. Far from it. But I am published. I’ve introduced characters who have been a major part of my life to the world. There are people who love these characters as much as I do. My series has a long way to go — I can’t envision a day in which I’m no longer writing a Jill Andersen book — and there are plenty of other books that need to be written.

There’s even a second series poking around in my head.

I’m not saying all of this is easy. There are still days when I’m blocked. There are still days in which I can’t bring myself to actually put words on the page, no matter how desperately I want to. There are even days when I just don’t want to. But I imagine that’s true of just about any job, and the fact is, whenever I doubt myself, all I have to do is look at my bookshelf.

If you have a story (or several) in you, let them out. Even if it takes years. Don’t compare yourself to other writers, even your favorites. Write your story, tell your tale. Worry about publication and sales and all that later; for now, today, focus solely on putting those words on that page. Even if it’s just a sentence, a paragraph.

You can do this. Trust me. There’s nothing stopping you.

After all, my dream came true. Why can’t yours?

 

Official SealBounty has been nominated for a TopShelf magazine Indie Book Award!

It’s a big deal for my debut novel to even be nominated — and there are plenty of perks therein — but if by some stroke of luck I actually win, then there’s no end to the awesomeness that would ensue. Mostly I’m just jacked that someone thought enough of my work to nominate it. That’s pretty damn cool.

Anyway, check it out!

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.