Writing articles helped us pay bills but in most cases waiting to get compensated for them required patience. Some magazines paid on acceptance, some on publication which meant you were at the mercy of the editorial staff’s whim and the magazine’s scheduling. Occasionally your piece would run within a few months but, then again, you might not see it in print for almost a year if the editor got his hands on something newly breaking or more relevant. Magazine writing though was better than a paper route, usually.
As we ventured more deeply into the wonderful world of writing we were accruing credits and proving that we could be relied upon to come through with information written so as to be understood and acceptable with captioned photos to help the reader visualize whatever the article was about. In some instances, after discussing an article idea with an editor, the idea was shot down. Jerry, never one to get shot down easily, would use that Irish tongue of his to try and persuade the editor to take another look or, he would change the gist of the piece enough to come up with a better angle to the same story - NEGOTIATION 101. Sometimes, having built a good rapport with certain editors, they might not need the piece but would put us onto another magazine that might be in the market for it.
Ready for somewhat more steady money from writing, Jerry started going after a regular column. His big break was with Terrain and Situation which appeared in SOLDIER of FORTUNE magazine. His love of gear and gadgets paid off big time since he now could talk about new stuff coming out in the market. He loved to play with the knives and holsters and other things manly. For GUNS & AMMO magazine he wrote ‘The Right to Keep and Bear Arms” column which gave him the opportunity to defend our constitutional rights. He later landed columns with Peterson’s HANDGUNS magazine devoted to all types of holster wear and, years later when Jan Libourel, who over the years had become one of our dearest family friends, moved from his position as editor at HANDGUNS to take over that position at GUN WORLD magazine, Jerry produced the “Field Issue” column where again, he talked about new products, books and anything else that he thought readers would be interested in. “Always Armed” was a column Jerry wrote for GUN DIGEST magazine. Jerry was writing “Ahern Under the Gun” for DILLON BLUE PRESS, about a diverse range of subjects and a column dealing with swords and their history for KNIVES ILLUSTRATED up until the time of his death. We also in the early 1980s had two newspaper columns in a neighboring city’s weekend edition. One was a book review column called “Under the Covers” and the other dealt with anything that came to mind.
Being seen regularly in any type of writing venue can be helpful. Readers will hopefully pick up the magazine or newspaper or whatever you have become associated with, which could be nowadays seen on their computer or other internet device and find your name listed on the contents or contributor page. People know you and hopefully trust you. That became particularly evident when we were writing novels in which our characters were using various types of weaponry as Jerry was known for his accuracy and eye to detail in this field.
When we were trying to sell the idea for THE SURVIVALIST series late in the 1970s, rejection became a well known commodity in the Ahern household. We found that even though it was about the “day after tomorrow”, space travel and cryogenics, none of the publishers that sold science fiction wanted it. One major house, Zebra/Kensington did take a hard look at our lengthy synopsis and sample chapters and came back at us with a counter-proposal. They would gave us a contract for THE SURVIVALIST if we would agree, based on Jerry’s association with SOLDER of FORTUNE magazine through his column, to write a series about a mercenary. Zebra got THEY CALL ME THE MERCENARY with a lovable, one-eyed, joke cracking main character which we did for seventeen books and THE SURVIVALIST got published and it still runs today. Thank you SOF! You never can be sure where one path will lead you next.
Pretend you want a bank loan and the loan officer slides a tally sheet across the desk in your direction. You fill in the blanks and obviously want him to be able to focus on the side showing all your assets and what you have been able to accrue and hope that he takes just a quick look at the other side of the ledger showing your debts. Never dwell on what you could have done or should have. Instead make joyful noise over that short piece you did for a local paper no one in New York Cityor anywhere else has ever heard of and your payment which turned out to be a one year subscription to it. That might be your ticket to the big time!