Episode 75B – Terry Shepherd – Changing Careers

Overview

Terry and I continue our conversation by talking about his change in career. Not just once, but several times during his life. Which led to his current writing career.

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Transcript

Oh, okay. So that’s evolved for me. I started out with Microsoft word. Then I went to Scribner. Scrivener is really good for organizing and managing characters. But I do all since I’m self published, I do all of my own formatting and stuff and I do it. And I do that with vellum I’m on the, what usually happens is that I’ll start out, I’ll get an idea for a scene or a short story.

I’ll write that scene and then it ends up growing into the novel. So that happens oftentimes still on Microsoft word. And then what I’ll do is I’ll transfer. I’ll write them in word. I run it through pro writing. Which is a thing that catches the grammar and passive voice and stuff like that. And then I’ll copy it and put it into the chapter in vellum.

And I run actually the printout for all of the various digital copies and stuff, so I can pop it into my apple books application and read it and things like that. And then I’ll go back and make fixes that way. So my barf draft, I just let it flow. I don’t worry about stuff. If I do see something that needs to happen to set up a scene, I’ll go back and.

But I do what Patterson does and that is I’ll write a hundred pages and then go back and look at it, see if it’s flowing the way it should. And then I’ll write another a hundred until I get to whatever the number is. I try and make them between 70 and 85,000 words, if they’re going to be a novel, but I don’t stick to that.

I stop when the story’s done. I mean, But it’s a better book because I wasn’t trying to hit a word count. I was trying to tell a story. And so that’s the most important thing. Yeah. So I write on those things and pro writing aid is really important. I like that better than Grammarly and beta readers. I’m going to have, I have a trusted group of beta readers that represent each of the character types.

My story, they read they feedback. I make the changes and then. It goes to, I have a story consultant that I use that helps me make sure my plots are right and that my characters are developing as they should. Then I’ve got an editor. I have three different editors to base based upon what I’m writing at the given time.

And I pick one of them, use that by the time I get it back from them. It’s ready to go. When it’s on Amazon cover designer, Bobby Mars does my covers for, um, Fantastic person. Karen Phillips does my kids’ stuff. She’s really great. And then Casey Ratchford is the illustrator of the mystery bug series.

Incredible talent, really good. And he’s not even, he wouldn’t consider himself that he’s a, he thinks he’s a reformed lawyer, but he’s got a gift. So that real. Key. I think that you don’t necessarily get when you’re published by a big five publishing company, is that you retain that creative control over every piece of your work.

That’s also the curse because we sink or swim based upon your decisions. So I’m the only one that blame. Yep. Yeah, I am. I am the interesting thing that I got from Bobby Mars about Vega, as she says, the readers don’t want us, you don’t show me. Don’t ever show Jessica’s face, always show her from the back and she’s chasing.

So I always have. So, if you look at Vegas cover, she’s running through a part of the Colorado river and you see the person she’s chasing her hand, coming up out of the water, out of her and the chasing the captain. She is hanging from a helicopter over the. The London eye. And I had to do that because I want to make absolutely sure that all the cops that follow Jeff, what they saw that cover, they’d say, Hey, he did it.

He didn’t put her in great Britain. This is

[00:04:08] Stephen: great. And it captures when you look at. It, you could tell it’s not a romance. It’s not this she’s hanging from a helicopter as the sun is setting over a Ferris wheel. Okay. So there might be some action in this one. I’m going to guess.

[00:04:24] Terry: So write it. And she’s holding the biggest, he’s holding a Russian revolver, which is the biggest, most powerful handgun ever made anywhere.

I get what you were asking, whether I thought Jess would be better on television or the screen. I always imagine that paramount mountain coming up in the beginning book and immediately there’s action. So in Invega, we go from Bega killing her first victim to a meth lab bust in progress in chasing the captain.

We start out with a guy giving his breathing his last breath shot six times in an alleyway. And, um, Seoul, Korea trying to get a text out. And then we jumped to a test track where an electric car is going to run the Daytona 500 and some bad things happen. And then Jess ends up chasing somebody 10 years earlier, we do a flashback.

So we understand how she meets one of the people that starts around her chase after the captain. So I think all those things, his movie scenes, and how would they look if I were, if it was Panavision for 16, by nine film aspect ratio. 4k color with all with I do soundtracks too. So they, the start of chasing Vega is born to be wild.

I think about that and that really works. And the other thing I do is I always do credits. So I actually create the final scene in the book as a movie. And then I roll into the credits at the end, and it’s not something I published for everybody to see, but I have it in a secret place on, on Vimeo. And I share it with my fellow authors because.

I want. Them to understand how many people were involved in the creation. And it is so cool as an author to see that last scene happen. And then bam, a book from a book by Terry, from the book by Terry Shepherd. If that ever happens to me in a real theater, I probably have a heart attack

[00:06:14] Stephen: and well, I, I hope I’m next year because I’d love to see the excitement on that.

[00:06:22] Terry: But it’s part of what we do for motivation. You think about what motivates you to tell the story? I can’t wait to get into the next story after I watched the credits for the last one, because I always say like in the bond movies, James Bond will return in Jessica Ramirez will return and chasing karma January 20, 22.

I got to get that story

[00:06:39] Stephen: going, man, because the guys in London won it. Yeah.

[00:06:45] Terry: I loved this conversation by Fred you aren’t, this is a great time.

[00:06:51] Stephen: So we were going to talk about, and I think we hit upon it, um, a little bit on your choice to become a writer because you haven’t been, oh, I always wanted to be a writer.

Oh, I worked on it my whole life necessarily. Tell us a little bit about that.

[00:07:08] Terry: The short story. It’s a very long story, Steven, but the short story. I’ve always been one that has wanted to help people reach beyond their self-imposed limitations, break glass ceilings, and do great things. And in my corporate career, that’s what I was known for.

That’s what I always did. And there came a moment in my career where I could no longer do that in that scene. So that left me bereft of purpose. And we have the depression gene in our family, and I was suicidal because I thought my life is over. And I talked to my. She convinced me that it wasn’t. She said, think of something question you always ask us, what would you do if you’re working for love and not for money?

And you answered that one yourself and I couldn’t. So she said, we’ll figure out something, give it a year and see what happens. So I did a lot of soul searching. I knew that I was pretty good as a non-fiction writer. I thought I’d give fiction to try and learn. And I did what I did in everything that I’ve ever tried.

I found the best people in the world wrote to them, tried to learn from them, hired the best people I could to teach. And I went in with the assumption that I was going to be successful. I already saw myself as Terry Shepherd best-selling author. And that really is what it’s about. It’s not about the end, it’s about the journey, right?

The things that happened during the journey. And so I’m living the life of a best-selling author, although I’m far from it. And part of that life is to try and inspire people with my. To want to become law enforcement people to want to become medical examiners, that kind of stuff, to be proud of being gay and also to consider telling their story.

Because if a guy at my age can make the shift a major shift into a fiction genre, learn how to do it, have fun doing it and find purpose in life. I don’t care how old you are, where you live. You can do that.

[00:08:58] Stephen: And that’s what else is there to say? That’s the most important thing, right? I see so many authors getting so uptight and worried about the writing and their craft and Emma and the imposter syndrome.

And so many things that they start losing the joy of writing and they don’t enjoy it as much. And if you don’t enjoy it as much, it shows in your writing for one, but why do it? I used to have a hat when I was a kid said, if it’s not fun, forget it. We might put through my life. I’ve lost that. And I rediscovered it this year, actually.

And I’m like, wow, there’s so many points in my life and things I do that I don’t enjoy. Why am I doing them? I need to do the things I find fun. And it shows it’s a snowball. If you enjoy what you’re doing, you’re going to do better at it. And it’ll the good things will come. The karma will take place.

[00:09:46] Terry: Absolutely. You have to do it. A couple of authors have told me there’s you’re not allowed to have writers. You need to create, you need to crank it out every day. And some of it’s going to be good. Someone’s going to be bad. That’s what Bradbury said years and years ago, I got to meet him when I was in high school because we were studying rocket man.

And the Elton John had the song out at the time and he happened to be in the town where I was growing up. We went to CMC. Amazing guy. Super nice guy. And my question was, what’s the one thing that you think separates the good from the great, and he says the great write every day, even if it sucks.

[00:10:20] Stephen: And because that was an overall message from this author summit, I went to over the weekend, the career author summit that was like repeated over and over and I’ve started to get a new mindset and I agree.

The professional writers, the ones whose their job is writing and they’re professional at it right every day. And that doesn’t mean you can’t be a writer with another job or a part-time writer. You can absolutely be that, but you either, you need to make that decision in your head. Am am I going to always be that and be happy with it?

Or am I going to be a professional writer and do what it takes to be a professional. And I’ve made that connection in my head stronger recently. So

[00:11:07] Terry: every job has those dark moments, but every job has those moments of flow. And you know what I’m talking about, Steven, when the music is singing, it’s coming through you, not from you, it’s just flowing onto the paper and you’re blasting.

My last edit is narration. I read it out loud and. I, I had put captain down. I never, I hired a narrator for Vega, but for captain, I wrote, read it myself and I’d put it down for about a month before doing it. So I’d forgotten about it. I was on the other when we waited something else. So when I started narrating the thing.

My wife, like CA came in and she says, you’re at the end of some of these chapters. And I’m hearing you whooping and hollering saying, I’m not that bad. This is pretty good stuff. The way it’s flowing, that’s the joy, right? It’s gotta be internal. You can’t base your joy on what other people think, how much you sell any metric.

The only metric that matters in the outside world is what have you done today to make someone else’s life. And the only metric that matters on the inside of the world is what are you doing to take care of your own mental health

[00:12:11] Stephen: and writing? You can do that for yourself and others. What you were talking about earlier.

Yeah. Helping others. When we were talking about how fiction can help your writing and you feel good and you love it, what you’re doing, it comes out. You help others. Uh, it’s the only other thing I’ve learned that is this powerful is music. That’s the probably only other thing I would say could be as powerful in people’s lives.

[00:12:38] Terry: So now you are a musician. You play it you’ve actually played.

[00:12:40] Stephen: Yes. Yes. I, lots of things. I grew up with piano lessons and play drums in school. I actually got to play a big pipe organ in a church cause I took Oregon lessons and then I got a rock and roll band. I joined in high school. Bass guitar. So yeah, I meet a lot of authors that play music also.

And there’s a reason for that. I think

[00:13:03] Terry: drums, man, those are the two most important things. Absolutely. So that are the horns, right? Yes.

[00:13:10] Stephen: We got more horns and rock and roll again. Absolutely.

[00:13:14] Terry: So that’s part of my past. Another thing we share is that I spent the summer of 1972 touring south America with a rock band.

And we played everything from small cavern club type venues to soccer stadiums. And it was an odd ball moment because. There weren’t kids our age at that point in time that were doing that. So for children and teenagers, in that part of the world to come see people that look like them and they were their age playing 25 or six to four MacArthur park, all that great lake, 670 stuff with the horns, they, it was a ma it was it.

Got me off of one of my dreams, which was to be a session drummer. I wanted to be a session musician for awhile, but after touring, I learned that was not what I wanted to do, but I never forgot. And I know, you know what this feels like when your band is on stage. Oh, yeah. I don’t know what, what the base is.

There’s everybody’s got a tune. Maybe you’d say the bass players. I knew it was Steve Miller. Give me some loving. That’s got a great,

[00:14:11] Stephen: we actually played the chain,

[00:14:14] Terry: but that moment, when everybody recognizes the tune and they recognize that you’re the one playing it and all of a sudden the focus is on you.

And it’s like, the universe takes over and there’s this transmission of energy that’s going through you out that amplifier and right into their consciousness. That there’s no, no joy better than that.

[00:14:36] Stephen: Nothing better. I absolutely agree. Before we go. Cause I have to go pick a kid up. You do podcasting, you’ve got a pocket.

Tell us everybody a little bit about that because it ties into this.

[00:14:45] Terry: So I feel very lucky to be part of the authors on the air global radio network, which is the largest configuration of podcasts dedicated to the craft that is out there today. Pam stack is my partner in the thing and I host the, actually the authors on the.

Podcast, which is the flagship show. And I stumbled into that. She was having some surgery, she needed to sub she knew I did broadcasting. I filled in for three shows for her. When she came back, she said, your. And I was thinking, I don’t want to do this. What I realized was that there was a very, there was two selfish reasons.

One was, I now could invite anybody I wanted to fill in the blanks. And my knowledge base was what you do. This is why I love your show is that you catch people at the Dawn of their career and in your archive are going to be some people that are going to be literary icon. And you’ll be able to send the, do the thing on a and E about their life.

They’re going to come to you because you met them at the beginning. Absolutely. And I love

[00:15:51] Stephen: that aspect of the job I met. Uh, I’ve said this several times on the show I’ve said to other people, the reason I started this was because several groups on Facebook. You get authors on there going, Hey, I just had a great month.

I made 120,000 and I’m looking at this going, you’ve got 56 books out, made 120,001. I’m struggling to get the next sentence. And I can’t relate. That’s not inspirational to me. And it went click. I bet there’s other authors that don’t relate and are getting discouraged. What they need are the authors that struggled through that and got a book out.

They have something on the shelf. And what did they go through? I get moms and I get retired lawyers and everything else. And I’m hoping that not only are some readers listening, finding new books like yours, which I hope that many do, but also that other authors are listing. And going, Hey, that sounds a lot like me.

And if that guy can do it, I can do it. And then they get a book out and come on the podcast. That’s my goal. That’s my hope

[00:16:57] Terry: for this twice. This is such a successful show. Steven is because you’re in it for a higher purpose. You’re not in it for you. All of us authors know that there are very few that are going to make James Patterson bucks.

Many of us have second jobs, but we, because we, can’t not right. Part of our it’s part of what makes it makes life work for us. And it’s connected to our. The best books you can tell are connected to the author’s purpose. And that’s why I’ve been, I was so excited to be on your show, Stephen, because I just love the work you do as a man talking to you.

[00:17:29] Stephen: I had a great time. So I am coming to Florida in January for a conference I do with my day job programming. I would love to try and meet up with you like on the weekend or something afterwards, we are actually in Del Ray Del Ray beach. Perfect. We’ll figure

[00:17:47] Terry: something out. I want to hear about programming.

Are you a code jockey? Is that what you do? What language?

[00:17:54] Stephen: Uh, mostly been using PHP. Uh, my I’ve been doing a lot more administrative stuff. Things have changed a bit. The company’s been growing it’s when I started, there was like eight people and we’ve got 20 some, so it’s good company.

[00:18:09] Terry: BHP is great because nobody can see what’s going on.

It just, it generates the HTML. You don’t know what’s happening behind the curtain. That’s the best.

[00:18:23] Stephen: Yeah, Terry, it has been wonderful dark India. Hopefully we’ll catch up sometime again. That’d be great. And everybody I’ll put links to your show or go listen to it. Yeah, that’d be

[00:18:32] Terry: great. Yeah, let’s do this again.

This was great fun. It was just like being in the car.

It

[00:18:36] Stephen: was, and we need to get to the coffee shops again. Thanks Jerry.

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