How Did You Get Here?

by Joe Hartlaub

It was only a few hours ago that I spoke with a friend that I hadn’t conversed with in almost forty years. Don and I worked for a couple of summers on a municipal road crew in the Akron, Ohio area in the early 1970s. We came from very different backgrounds and had a bit of an age difference between us but became something more than work friends. He had a number of colorful expressions, most of which I can’t use in family blog, but which pepper my conversation to this day. The method we used to rid a field of a hornet’s nest almost got me arrested some fifteen years after the fact when I replicated it elsewhere.

You don’t forget a guy like that, but you do lose touch. I moved to Columbus in 1978; Don stayed in Akron. Life got in the way for both of us. There weren’t emails or cell phones or Skype and we became busy with jobs and raising families the way that people do. I never forgot Don, however, given that I quoted him like Scripture on a frequent basis, usually with appreciative laughter from whatever audience I was before. I started looking for him on the internet several years ago but couldn’t find him and assumed he had moved or even passed. I had long since given up trying to reach Don when I saw him featured on the front page of a northeastern Ohio newspaper. He had been ambushed by a reporter outside of a polling station; he looked older (unlike me) but it was still the same guy, for sure. His internet presence, however, was still non-existent. I was able to locate a couple of phone numbers for him but they were out of service. I did, however, get a street address for Don after some effort and wrote him a letter — an actual letter — with my prized fountain pen. It took eight days for him to get it (they don’t call it “snail mail” for nothing) but he ultimately received it and called me. We’re going to get together soon (“…before one or both of us dies!” he said) and catch up further.

All of this got me to wondering about all of you. I remember where and how I met Don, and most of my other friends, and my wife, business associates, etc. But those of us who contribute blog posts to The Kill Zone don’t know how you, our wonderful readers and commenters, got here. What brought you to The Kill Zone originally? How did you get here? Twitter? Facebook? Writer’s Digest? An author’s link? I’d love to know. And if you have any stories about reuniting with old friends and acquaintances that are unique and/or unusual, please share if you’re so inclined.

BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 03:  Cars and traffic fill the A100 ring highway at dusk on November 3, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Germany is heatedly debating the introduction of highway tolls (in German: Maut), which in the current form proposed by German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt would be levied solely on foreigners. Dobrindt's office argues that this is not discrimination, which would be illegal under European Union law, since Germans already pay an annual car tax.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)            

51 thoughts on “How Did You Get Here?

  1. If memory serves, I found TKZ while Googling for a specific topic. Don’t recall what it was, but TKZ had covered the topic. Once I found this blog, wild horses couldn’t drag me away (pardon the cliché). And the rest, as they say, is history.

    • Sue, we are all so glad you found us. If those wild horses show up and try to take you away, they’re gonna wind up pulling a wagon around Busch Gardens for all eternity. Thanks for letting us know!

  2. I cannot remember how I found The Kill Zone. It’s kinda like they found me. And the only analogy that I can give is… looking for my keys.

    • I totally get it, Dave. Just fill in “glasses” for “keys” and I’m with you. It must be a northeast Ohio thing. Thanks as always for stopping by.

  3. Good morning, Joe.

    I look forward to every other Saturday, to read your posts. And thanks for that little jewel dropped in there about your prized fountain pen. I noticed.

    I first learned about The Kill Zone from the wonderful author of historical novels, Jillian Kent. I forget why we communicated initially. I think I was telling her how much I enjoyed one of her books. She told me I should check out TKZ. (I think she mentioned that a certain Sunday morning personality posted here – but we don’t want that to go to his head) Thanks, Jillian!

    Anyway, I started following TKZ, and I’ve never looked back. On weekdays, I always read the posts. I rarely have time to respond. But I certainly appreciate all of you who post weekly. This is definitely the best blog out there. I’ve learned so much. We should have some sort of annual appreciation day to show our love.

    Thanks for all your posts, Joe. I always am amazed at your knowledge and how you keep us up on the changes in the publishing industry.


    • Steve, I’ll start replying as soon as I stop laughing about the second-to-last sentence in your second paragraph. My sides! Okay…there…

      That’s a great story, as I love word-of-mouth (or e-mail) tales. We’re grateful for however folks come to us, but when someone actually recommends us to someone else…that’s humbling. Thanks so much, as always, for your kind words, Steve. And I did mention the fountain pen element especially for you. It has a place of honor on my desk. Thanks again.

  4. I remember it well. I Googled a specific question on writing, and TKZ showed up. The answer was so good, I started reading archives, and naturally started reading new posts. No doubt, it’s the most helpful writing blog I’ve found.

    Okay, Joe, this intrigues me: “The method we used to rid a field of a hornet’s nest almost got me arrested some fifteen years after the fact when I replicated it elsewhere.”

    I gotta know the lurid details!

    • Mike, thanks so much for sharing and especially for your kind words, which mean a lot to all of us here. I am constantly surprised as to how much information is out there available on Google, not to mention on the darknet. It’s both exhilarating and at times frightening.

      Re: the lurid details: telling it would take the length of a blogpost. Maybe in a couple of weeks…if I can find a way to present it as a hypothetical cautionary tale.

  5. I attended a novel-intensive workshop here in Wisconsin and SJ Rozan was on of the facilitators. I’m pretty sure she mentioned KillZone in one of her talks – I was hungry for any and all help on craft and started following you guys as soon as I got home. Even though I write women’s fiction, not horror, suspense, or mystery, there are still loads of columns that help me with both writing structure as well as general encouragement to keep on keeping on. And when you reviewed my first page back in the fall, with loads of great suggestions, you had me for life! So Thanks, SJ and to all of you who regularly contribute here

    • Maggie, thanks so much for stopping by regularly and for telling us that. I can’t really think of higher praise than being mentioned at a workshop. SJ Rozan is a favorite of mine, particularly when she loses her “caution” button…I literally fell out of my seat the last time I heard her address an audience. We’re glad you took her up on her advice!

  6. I was looking for an answer for some question. (I always have questions–TONS of questions.) My question, which I don’t remember, came up in a Google search, and I clicked on The Kill Zone.

    I discovered Mr. Bell and his books. I like that he is personally involved in the blog.

    I’ve been hooked ever since. I think it’s the best writers’ blog on the internet.

    • Jim that’s high praise, and we will continue to attempt to earn that going forward. I think a lot of people find us through the internet and Jim’s books, which are more and more becoming mandatory reading for aspiring authors. Thanks for contributing!

  7. I’m always on the lookout for quality writer’s sites, and I ran across TKZ about a year ago as a listing on another site (I think Writer’s Digest-not sure). Been here ever since.

    About 4 years ago I got an email that really caught me short. It was from my roommate in college. Hadn’t seen or heard from him in well over 40 years. He’d managed to track me down after seeing my father’s obituary of all things. We caught up, stayed in touch for a few months, then it all sort of faded away again. Part of ‘you can’t go home again’ I suspect.

    • Stephen, thanks for sharing, and we are glad you are here. We’ll keep striving to make sure that your visits are worth your while. Also thanks for your roommate story. I have a couple of similar ones, friendships that were once solid that, on attempts to rekindle, didn’t so much fail as such…faded away. Hope you eventually strike some friendship gold from the past.

  8. I don’t remember how I found the TKZ blog — but if you ever participated in the April A to Z Challenge, I might have picked your blog from the list of participants and then stuck with it.

    My long lost friends story came as a result of publishing my first novel which was set in East Central Illinois where I grew up. I went back there for a book event and the newspaper did a nice promotion from my press release. Two of my friends from grade school (I won’t even tell you how many years ago that was) got in touch as a result and we’ve seen each other many times since when I go back to Illinois for visits. It was a wonderful bonus to the book release.

    • Patricia, that’s great, I’m loving all of the different ways that people find their way here. And that’s a terrific story about your grade school friends. Isn’t it interesting how sometimes your earliest friends can continue to be your best? I bet renewing contact alone made all of the work you put into your book worthwhile. Thanks for sharing on both counts.

  9. Joe, thanks for another great post, but…you always leave us wanting more! Like Mike, I want to hear the hornet story, as well as those expressions you cannot share in a family blog. If you whisper them quietly in my ear, maybe no one will be offended ;).

    Can’t remember exactly, but I think TKZ was recommended by a writer friend (embarrassed I can’t recall who or I’d thank him/her). Love the meaty content. I still have several Jodie Renner’s columns saved for frequent grammar reference, along with my yellowing, dog-eared Strunk & White.

    Having many different authors and POVs, this blog never gets boring and is always fresh. It’s not an exaggeration to say TKZ recommendations are responsible for a majority of my book purchases. When I benefit from particular wisdom or advice, I usually buy the book to say thank you to the author. The virtual shelves of my Kindle sag under the weight. JSB has his own section.

    Steve is right–we readers should have an appreciation day for the generous authors of TKZ. Thanks to Joe and the rest of the gang!

    • Debbie, thanks so much for your kind words. I may do that story next time (but be careful what you wish for). As far as the colorful expressions…um….um….I don’t know…my wife hasn’t even heard them (well, maybe one or two). We’ll see. But thanks for your story on how you got here. And if you haven’t already, please check out Jodie’s anthology CHILDHOOD REGAINED which will be out on May 8. It’s a winner.

      Re: JSB…he’s probably musing…”my own section? You mean…I don’t get…my own shelf?” All kidding aside, Jim is indispensable. His weekly column is like a college writing course, only much more interesting. Thanks again.

  10. Back in 2008, I got an email from Kathryn Lilley inviting me and a few others to help her put together a blog for writers and readers. I said that if it didn’t involve heavy lifting, I was in. Eight years later, I’m still here for better or worse.

  11. Always better, Joe, always better! Thanks for a look behind the curtain. You predate me somewhat at TKZ,, since I was only in my mid-20s in 2008, but…

  12. I can’t say I remember for sure, but I think it had something to do with that guy—what’s his name?—who posts here on Sunday’s. Anyway, once I started reading posts by the rest of you, I was hooked. I’ve learned so much! Now I follow TKZ through the RSS feed. Keep it up!

  13. Peggy, I don’t think Jim’s taken this much abuse since he talked back to the nuns in Catholic grade school during the 1950s! Thanks so much for continuing to be a loyal friend to the site. We want to keep everyone informed and entertained in equal measure.

  14. A while back Steven James did a guest post. At the time I was reading his “Patrick Bowers” chess series, which I loved. I was on his email list and I think it was an email from him that directed me here. The excellent posts from regular contributors at TKZ have kept me here!

    • Phil, thanks so much for your story. I’m surprised at the “many roads,” if you will, that folks have used to find us. Thank you as well for taking the time to find us and stay with us. It’s much appreciated.

  15. I believe I found Kill Zone through a link from Larry Brooks Story Fix page. I had done a search for plotting info on Google and read an article there by Larry—good advice too.

  16. I found you guys when Joe Moore invited me to join. One of the best moves I’ve made in my career. Love it here. Thanks Joe and Kathryn!

    • Kris, we all love you right back. Just so long as your posts don’t delay your next Louis Kincaid book…btw, for our readers: if you ever get a chance to see Kris Montee and/or Kelly Nichols, Kris’ sibling writing partner, demonstrate how they do what they so miraculously do in composing every novel, don’t miss it. There’s one point where a collective gasp rises from those assembled, and for good reason.

  17. TKZ is a great blog! A unique source in a rapidly expanding jungle of sites for writers. Thank you all for the clarity and wisdom, the techniques and the tips. Back in 2011, I attended a writers conference in Athens, GA, where John Gilstrap taught a one-day class and was keynote speaker. Great class and a great, small conference. He recommended TKZ (he was still posting here then), and I’ve been a serial, part-time lurker ever since. In his keynote address, John said that if you die before you’re published, you didn’t fail, you died too early. Words to live by.

    I got back in touch with two friends from Air Force duty in Thailand in ’74 through a book review one had posted of a memoir based on a year in Thailand by the third guy.

    Always educational and entertaining here on TKZ!

    • Lance, thank you so much for your kind words. We’ll work very hard to continue to earn your praise, every day and every week. Re: John…he is an amazing teacher and at time hilarious storyteller. His account of doing a book signing at a warehouse club property is side-splitting. Also, thank you for your account of your reunion with your friends from the Air Force. And, last but certainly not least, thank you for your service. It’s greatly appreciated.

  18. I don’t remember how I heard about TKZ but I believe it was a referral from another writer blog. I’m just glad I found the site. It’s a great resource for writers.

    • Thank you, Frances, for your kind words. We’re glad that you found us. And there is no higher praise than to be spoken of favorably on another blog. Thanks for letting us know.

  19. Ditto Debbi’s comments ~ I forget who gave me / where I first found the TKZ link, but it’s now part of my pre-commute coffee routine each morning.

    Similarly, a different voice and POV and topic each morning ~ without a belligerent sales pitch ~ is refreshing, educational, AND entertaining ~

    I know I’ve got a deepeer “must read” list now, along with a more critical eye (if I can just remember to focus it on my own pages as narrowly).

    And I feel I’ve made some “virtual friends” here that are at least as tight as the ether has allowed the old “analog” friends to be.

    Thanks for what all y’all (bloggers and replies) contribute here~ and your secrets are safe with me!)



    • George, you’re welcome, but we thank YOU for stopping by every day. There’s no point in doing what we do unless people — you and everyone else who is part of our community — come by. You’re the greater part of the equation, for sure. We’ll do our best to make sure that we are a part of your mornings.

  20. I attended one of JSB’s workshops at ACFW and he gave us this link. I’ve been here ever since, lurking sometimes and sometimes commenting, but always reading!

    • We love our lurkers, Patricia, and appreciate it when they return and offer comments when moved to do so. Thanks for your story. Jim is a walking, talking ambassador for TKZ, and is very generous with his time and advice. A lot of guys would be content just to sell the books — nothing wrong with that, not at all — but Jim gives all for these wonderful, free and interesting tips week in and week out. There aren’t many like him.

  21. Ever hungry for inspiration and writing advice, I’m sure I found TKZ via a Google search. Like others, it’s the quality of the content, the diversity of contributor’s perspectives, and the fact that several of my favorite authors are here that keeps me reading. Joe, I always enjoy your stories and perspectives. I’d like to know what brought you to the writing life.

    • Jagoda, thanks so much, you’re easy to please, for sure. Another notch for google searches. To answer your question…I had a friend/correspondent tell me long ago that I should try writing, that I had a knack for telling a story. He was at that time and still is a better writer than I could ever hope to be, and yet, he still is not published. That may change shortly and if it does I will devote a blog post to the full story. Thank you for asking.

  22. I believe that I saw your blog from Writer’s Digest or from Google. I read every day, although I don’t always comment. I have cut down on several blogs that I used to read due to time constraints, but never this one. As a newbie, I’ve learned so much here, and not only from the bloggers on here, but also from the commenters. I always read all the comments too. It is very inspiring and insightful for me, and I’m sure for other aspiring authors.

    I got back in touch with some friends from elementary and junior high, as well as high school through Facebook. I hadn’t talked to many of them for over 40 years. I also got back in touch with family members that I’d lost touch with for years as well. I am quite an introvert, and don’t have many physical friends, at least where I live now, but I have many computer friends and they also mean a lot to me.

    • We seem to get a lot of traffic from both Google and Writer’s Digest, Rebecca, and we’re glad you are here regardless of how you found us. Thank you for your kind words, and I hope you and all of our readers know that we all learn from you as well, every day with every comment.

      My story is somewhat similar to yours, particularly with regard to old friends and classmates. I’ve also made some really good friends online as well. Thanks so much for being one.

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