Turning a Lost Job into a Mystery Thriller. The Authors Collection.
July 22, 2014
IT WAS 1993. The mergers and acquisitions that had made Wall Street a high-rolling transactional madhouse had come to a screeching halt a couple of years earlier.
Along with Wall Street, all the supporting institutions that had benefitted from the M&A boon – including the corporate law firms that papered the high-buck deals – began to feel the pain.
In San Francisco, the 120-lawyer firm where I had started working three years earlier was no exception. It was a small player. But the stream of modest jobs that filtered down the deal chain had been enough to support a hiring surge. Suddenly, that flow turned into a trickle.
I was vulnerable. As a newbie, I found myself desperate for work. When the end-of-year accounting was completed, the handwriting was on the wall. In an industry where some firms set targets for 2,000-plus billable hours a year for their lawyers, I had tallied less than 1,500.
It was only a matter of time before two of the firm’s partners stopped by my door, knocked softly and presented the pink slip.
Luckily, it was the Cadillac of firings. I was given a month to vacate the office. I had several prepaid hours with a career counselor. And, best of all, they gave me three months of severance pay.
It didn’t take long to find my next job. Although traditional business work had dried up, the high-tech world of Silicon Valley still hummed along nicely further south on Highway 101. In fact, the stage was being set then for the Internet boom that would finally peak in 2000 before coming crashing to earth.
Rather than move immediately to the next job, I negotiated a later start date. Then I took that time and the three months severance and embarked on a special project – the writing of my first book.
Every morning, I went up to the attic room in our tiny San Francisco house and settled down with my laptop at a small desk. While my wife went off to her newspaper editing job, I slowly worked my way through chapter after chapter. Through a small window I could sometimes see in the backyard far below my two-year-old daughter swinging back and forth in her swing while tended by our neighbor, a retired school teacher.
I wrote steadily until after lunch. On some afternoons, I took a bus to different neighborhoods in San Francisco. Chinatown. Little Italy. Pacific Heights. Telegraph Hill. I soaked up the atmosphere and explored the alleyways, cafes and storefront businesses that formed the setting for the mystery thriller that was taking shape.
I finished the first draft before the demands of my next job took over my life and time. It wasn’t long before I was working ridiculously long hours, often catching a few hours of sleep on the floor of my office to keep up with the steady stream of documents and deals passing across my desk. The legal work was followed by a business career in the high tech world that was just as consuming.
Meanwhile, the manuscript of the nearly completed book moved in its document box through four cities, five houses and a couple of storage units. The electronic files transitioned to a new laptop every couple of years.
Then on one summer day in 2011 the full implications of the revolution in ebook publishing finally hit home for me.
The Eureka moment occurred that afternoon. I downloaded the free Mobipocket program, ran my 17-year-old Word file containing my manuscript through it and dropped it onto my Kindle. It looked as nice as the Michael Connelly novel I had just finished reading. It was as if I had gone to my book shelf and discovered a bound copy of my own novel sitting there.
It took me a few months to pound the manuscript into finished form and learn all the finer aspects of self publishing, including formatting for various devices, finding a cover artist and learning the latest theories in how best to negotiate the mysterious world of Amazon sales and promotion.
The end result was Project Moses, the first of the Enzo Lee Mystery Thriller Series, which reached nearly 50,000 ereaders in its first year. And it also reaffirmed my belief that the loss of a job often nudges open a door of opportunity. You just have to see it.
Please click the book cover image to read more about Robert B.Lowe’s Project Moses.