An Inspiration in Every Sense

Without Tim Green, I'd have never become an author. But I'm far from the only person he has inspired.

Back in 2005, my wife and I were fans of The Soup, a television series on the E! entertainment network. For those unfamiliar with the show, it was a Friday wrap-up, of sorts, of some of the week’s most outlandish and comedic moments from reality TV and various news programs. Joel McHale (who later starred in NBC’s Community) was the host, and one of his favorite targets at the time was a man named Tim Green.

Green was a former NFL football player (for the Atlanta Falcons), and host of the latest revival of the news magazine, A Current Affair. McHale’s interest in him stemmed from Green’s stiff teleprompter reading, for which he poked regular fun at.

I had no idea at the time that those segments would end up laying the groundwork for my novelist career. But surprisingly enough, they did. Let me explain…

Having become familiar with Green from his appearances on The Soup, I recognized him on television a couple months later, when I was up very late one night, channel-surfing. He was being interviewed by someone (I can’t remember who), which struck me as unusual because I was used to seeing Green in the hosting role. It intrigued me enough that I continued watching, and soon discovered that he was an author. And not just any author, but a New York Times bestselling author.

I was stunned and even kind of mesmerized. I couldn’t believe that the former professional jock, who’d been teased on television week after week for his rigidly awkward delivery, was a highly accomplished thriller novelist. He was also a lawyer.

Talk about compartmentalizing one’s life.

The interview revolved around Green’s latest thriller, Exact Revenge, a modern day twist on The Count of Monte Cristo.

The discussion was fascinating, and the story, as Green described it, piqued my interest. This was no small feat because, believe it or not, I wasn’t a fan of fiction… at least not in the literary sense. My book reading was pretty much limited to the occasional biography. But my curiosity won out, and I quickly looked up Exact Revenge on Amazon, where I knew I could preview the first chapter or so.

THERE WAS A TIME when people wished that they were me. The only boundaries I had were the limits of my imagination. Now my world is six feet wide, eight feet long, and eight and a half feet high. It’s less than you think. The only thing between the concrete floor and me is a narrow three-inch mattress. I don’t need blankets or sheets because it’s always warm. My shirt and pants were once gray. Now they are the color of oatmeal. They are no longer stiff with sweat and I can’t smell them even though the guards angle their faces away whenever they try to let me out.

I was immediately drawn into Green’s narrative voice, the grittiness of his storytelling, and his adherence to detail. The next day (because I didn’t want to wait a week for it to arrive by mail), I drove to Barnes & Noble and picked up a copy.

I devoured the book in no time, staying up late each night to get in a few extra chapters. I marveled at how Green harnessed the English language to lay out scenes in a way that made me feel like I was right there beside the characters. Once I finished the book, I picked up another Green novel. Then another. I became a huge fan, but more importantly, from a personal standpoint, I formed a passion for the art of fiction… specifically the thriller genre.

I had been doing some political and entertainment writing at the time (even some poetry), but Green’s work inspired me to start my own thriller novel. I also figured that if he could manage to pull off multiple, remarkably different careers, perhaps there was hope for a software developer like me at least broadening his horizons into the world of writing.

Once I pulled the trigger, I was surprised by how natural it felt to put down the words on paper, and shape them creatively rather than analytically.

Several years later, I finished my first manuscript, and felt pretty good about it, but wasn’t sure what to do next. My wife believed it was good enough to get published, but I hadn’t a clue how to make that happen. Did I need an agent? Should I start printing out copies and sending them to people? I was trying to make sense of a world I knew nothing about.

It suddenly occurred to me to ask someone who did know that world — someone I had never met, but who had inspired me greatly to complete the manuscript: Tim Green.

I found Green’s website and sent him an email through the contact page. I described how his work had led me to complete a 400-page story that I hoped would find a publisher. I admitted I knew nothing about the process, or even the viability of my manuscript, and asked for his advice.

To be perfectly honest, I never believed I’d hear back from him. He was famous, after all… a New York Times bestselling author and television personality who clearly had lots of things going on his life. By then, he had moved on from thrillers to a highly successful series of young-adult sports novels, sometimes putting out two books in a single year. Surely, he wouldn’t have the time of day for an unknown, amateur, perhaps unserious writer like me.

20 minutes later, he replied. He thanked me for my message, congratulated me on completing my first manuscript, and then gave some very helpful advice. He explained that for someone like him, who was a public figure of some notoriety, it was fairly easy to find an agent and then a publisher. For someone like me, however, who didn’t have an established audience, finding an agent was almost as hard as writing the book.

As I said, it had taken me a long time to write my manuscript — six years of pain, sweat, and tears. The notion that the next step would be “almost as hard” as the first honestly scared the crap out of me. Thankfully, Green put me on a different path. He advised me to try smaller, independent publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts (that means they don’t require an agent, and instead work directly with the author).

I thanked him and followed his advice. To my surprise, just a few weeks later, I heard back from a publisher who was interested in signing me, and who I’ve been happy with ever since (four books and counting).

To this day, as I’m working on a Sean Coleman thriller, I still turn to Green’s novels for inspiration. I’ll open one of them up, and read some random pages on occasions when my creative juices aren’t flowing all that great. His work remains a good example for me. It’s helped me raise the bar of my writing numerous times, and truth be told, I even borrowed some branding from him. My web screen-name, JohnDalyBooks was taken from his, TimGreenBooks.

I kind of lost track of Green as time went on. Though I followed him on social media, he didn’t post very often. I knew he did a lot of public speaking to school children, where he promoted important themes from his sports books, like dedication and good character. He also coached his kids’ sport teams. From the pictures and videos I’d seen, it was clear that he loved his family and career, and thrived off of inspiring children to read and do their best in school and beyond.

From everything I’d come to know of Green, he’s always been a very decent, thoughtful, and gracious man… the kind of person others should aspire to be.

Just a few days ago, I saw a new social media post from him, along with a photo that caught me off guard:

Green’s hair had turned silver, he had some kind of oxygen tube around his neck, and he appeared to be confined to a wheel chair. In the post, he announced that his ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) charity had reached a donation milestone of $4 million. It suddenly occurred me, and I quickly confirmed through Google, that he himself had the deadly disease. He had announced the diagnosis at the end of 2018, and it had somehow completely escaped my attention.

In trying to learn more about Green’s health, I found a 60 Minutes interview from shortly after his announcement. In it, he was already showing obvious effects of the disease, his mobility limited and his voice having lost its clarity:

Green said he believed his years in the NFL, and the head trauma that came with them, had been the cause of his diagnosis. Still, he wasn’t looking for sympathy and had no regrets about his football career.

When asked if playing in the NFL was the best time of his life, he answered, “No. The best time of my life is right now.” Green explained that to him, family is everything, and he felt blessed to have the life that he has had.

Remarkably, despite having lost the use of this thumbs, he was still writing. In fact, he was working on book number 39 (yes, he’s written that many), using a sensor in his glasses and a mouse-click to select letters from a digital keyboard. It looked like a slow, tedious process… but he was admirably making it work.

I’m not sure how much worse Green’s condition is now; most ALS patients are given between two and five years to live, so I imagine things have gotten pretty bad. What I am sure of is his relentless spirit, his heroism, his kindness, and his amazing capacity to help and inspire others.

My thoughts and prayers are with the Green family. They having an amazing patriarch, and they assuredly know it.

You can learn about (and perhaps consider contributing to) Green’s fundraising campaign, Tackle ALS, here.


The Hullabaloo

I wrote a guest piece last week for the award-winning blog, on how truth makes for compelling fiction. In it, I describe how the opening chapter of my novel Blood Trade was taken from a real-life experience several years ago. Prairie Wife, who’s a media personality out of Casper, Wyoming, and a purveyor of all kinds of cool and interesting things, is also holding a giveaway for a signed, personalized copy of my newest novel, Safeguard.

Make sure you follow her on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

Random Thought

I wonder if the creators of “24” were ever tempted to end a season an episode early, and blame it on daylight savings.

Featured Vinyl

Tim Green and his uplifting sense of gratitude helped me decide on this week’s featured album.

I’ve written quite a bit about Blue October over the years. The band first grabbed my attention in 2006 with their hit, “Hate Me.” It was one of the most breathtakingly honest, heartfelt songs I’d ever heard. But as much as I liked it, and as often as I listened to the single, I regrettably didn’t give the rest of their music much of a chance. It’s hard to say why, beyond having two young children back then, and not a lot of free time to explore new music.

That changed years later when I saw that the Blue October would be performing at the Mishawaka Amphitheatre, a small outdoor venue in the mountains an hour’s drive from my house. My wife and I were sort of on the fence about going, being that we were pretty casual fans of the band. But because we’ve always liked the Mishawaka and its riverside ambiance, we decided to go ahead and pick up tickets.

It turned out to be an excellent decision. Blue October is one of the best live bands you’ll ever see. Their set that night in the Poudre Canyon was magical, and the band’s infectious sense of gratitude for their fans and success (especially from front-man Justin Furstenfeld) only enhanced the experience.

Furstenfeld’s life is an incredible story of redemption and second chances. My wife and I caught a solo, acoustic concert he did in Fort Collins a few months later. He calls these gigs “Open Book” shows because he not only performs intimate, unplugged versions of Blue October’s music, but also takes candid fan questions and talks a lot about his life experiences.

Furstenfeld has released two albums from recordings of these shows, the second referred to as the Winter Album. It is honestly one of my favorite albums ever (by anyone), with amazing acoustic renditions of some of his most powerful work (which sound particularly good on vinyl). My favorite songs on it include Ugly Side, I Want It, and Into the Ocean.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.

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Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!