The Gullwing Odyssey
By Antonio Simon Jr. Mark asked me to talk about something I've written, so here goes. The best place to start, I think, is at the beginning. I published my first novel in 2013. Titled "The Gullwing Odyssey," it's a fantasy/comedy set in the age of sail. Think: "The Princess Bride," but with more pirates, wizards, and dragons—the latter specifically because dragons make everything better, but I digress. I've written several other books since then, even trying my hand at horror, but my heart remains with fantasy and comedy. The primary theme of the book is overcoming your doubts to realize your fullest potential. I didn't realize it at the time, but subconsciously, a lot of me made its way into the book while I was writing it. The main character is a hesitant young man who has an adventure foisted upon him, and by the end, he realizes he's learned much from it. As for me, once I'd written the book, I was hesitant to publish it—in effect, I was scared to embark on the adventure that would ultimately launch my career as a writer. I was haunted by such questions as: "What if it's not any good?" and "Will people think of me differently, having read what I've written?" The result of these doubts was paralysis. The manuscript languished for months on my computer's hard drive. Then, when finally I mustered up the courage to seek a publisher, all I got for my trouble were rejection letters. Those quickly piled up, which didn't help my self-esteem any. This was bitingly ironic—the title of my book references a seagull, and despite my best efforts, I couldn't get that bird to fly. It wasn't until I'd queried every publisher in my copy of Writer's Market that I came to this realization: if my book was ever to see the light of day, I would have to set aside my doubts and dive head-first into the world of independent publishing. So, with great trepidation, I did. You cannot imagine the joy I felt upon seeing my manuscript—the one that had taken me three years to write—rendered in book form. Finally, my story had made the jump from a bunch of zeros and ones in a computer to a real object I could hold in my hand. It was exhilarating. Here at last was real, hard proof that the story I'd written had finally been given life. And to my surprise, the bird flew—faster and further than I ever could have imagined. To better explain, I'll need to take you back a bit, to 2008. In April of 2008, some friends of mine and I founded Darkwater Syndicate in Miami. Over the next few years, Darkwater operated as a webzine, publishing articles and short stories online each week. Eventually, we decided it was time to start publishing books, and "The Gullwing Odyssey" was its first novel ever. The book sold like gangbusters, hitting #5 on Amazon's bestsellers of 2014. Its success built capital, both in terms of cash as well as in credibility, and we began to attract new and better talent. We soon became swamped with submissions—authors from all over the world wanted to publish with us. Fast forward to the present. As of 2018, Darkwater has published over forty authors and two dozen books, with many more on the way. All this began with a tongue-in-cheek comedy about a hesitant hero, and its reluctant author. I've learned a lot since publishing my first book back in 2013. I'm not the same person I was then. I've found the courage to write stories the way I want to. Yes, there will always be naysayers, but I've learned that you shouldn't let them get in the way of telling your story. If they don't like your book, don't panic. You didn't write your story for them anyway. You can't expect to make everyone happy, and if you write only to appease others, you run the risk of becoming disingenuous. The only person whose happiness you can control is your own. Be true to yourself and write your story in a way that will make you happy. And even if you never sell a single copy of what you write, understand that, as with life, writing is more of a journey than a destination. When finally the time comes to put your pen down, reflect back on your efforts and see whether the adventure hasn't changed you for the better. I know mine has.