Friday, April 27, 2012

My Path to Publication

Just a Girl
April 27, 2012

My Path to Publication

hosted by Heidi Ruby Miller

The book Fire Men started as nothing more than wanting to record some of the experiences that my father and I had in the fire service and which my son Michael was starting to have. Writing of one incident often brought back memories of others and the list of individual stories of calls grew. After I had a hundred plus pages, it became clear that there was more than a pile of vignettes—there was a book there trying to get out. The writing was cathartic as well. It made me smile and laugh and took me back to less pleasant experiences—some still painful to recall even with the passage of time.

Eventually, a so-called first draft was complete and some friends encouraged me to try to obtain an agent and the querying process began. Lightning struck with surprising quickness and a young agent from a large New York City firm agreed to work with me. I know now this was an incredible stroke of luck as the manuscript wasn’t remotely ready. She provided great feedback and suggestions as I worked my way through a second draft. This revision much improved the book and she offered more suggestions to help fine tune the work.

The manuscript was one final pass from the point at which she was planning to send it to some editors she believed would be interested when calamity, at least for me, struck hard. My agent accepted a position as an editor at a big six house, which orphaned me. Yes, she passed the manuscript to another agent at her firm, but he wasn’t interested, and so two years after the start, the query roller coaster began running again. This time I decided to widen my view and include some of the fine small publishers in the business as well.

After a period of ups and downs with manuscript requests and rejections, a yes came in the door from a wonderful publisher, Nicole Langan of Tribute Books ( Her assistance and guidance through the final edits was invaluable. The cover and artwork she and her staff designed was beyond my wildest expectations. At the release and continuing now, she has been a great cheerleader; helping to push the book in conventional and unconventional ways. With a huge social media presence, she has been a tremendous teacher in how to use this medium.

Doing events and book signings has resulted in new friends and opportunities to re-connect with old ones. As much fun as the whole experience has been, I will never forget holding that first printed copy in my hand.

--Gary Ryman
April 2012

Gary Ryman is the middle of three generations of firefighters or the center of the Oreo. His book Fire Men: Stories from Three Generations of a Firefighting Family is available on Amazon and Barnes & in paperback as well as in all eBook formats. Visit for more information.

Buy Fire Men online at these links:



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Indian Tanks and the Big Bang

The spring brush fire season, a particularly nasty one this year in northeastern and central Pennsylvania, brings thoughts to one of the most important of “Ryman’s Rules.” It’s actually not a rule—not part of the philosophy of managing firefighters. It is actually a theory or law of physics; something for the Big Bang boys to debate.

The theory or law goes like this: Water weight in an Indian Tank increases one pound per gallon for every year you are over forty.

For more years than I will admit, I have found this to be true, hence my long standing position, both physically and metaphorically, anywhere which does not include the necessity of wearing said Indian Tank.

Let the debate begin…..

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Gary Talks Chief Officers at Central PA Bravest

Central PA Bravest
April 1, 2012

A Few Thoughts for the Chief Officer of the Volunteer House

by Gary R. Ryman

There are rules, and then there are rules. Here are some I've tried, not always successfully, to follow.

Ryman’s Rules: A Volunteer Chief’s Philosophy

1. You are responsible. You are responsible 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. If you are there or 3,000 miles away. You are responsible. You can delegate authority, but not responsibility.

2. The chief is always right. Invite input, debate, etc. from the officers. However, once the decision is made, that’s it. In public, the officers must show solidarity.

3. The officers are always right. If an officer makes a decision you disagree with, in public or with the other firefighters, that decision was right. You talk about what you would have done differently in private.

4. Delegate, delegate, and delegate. You can’t be involved in every activity, nor should you be. Give the junior officers responsibilities and hold them accountable. If they follow through, give them more and more. If they don’t, let them know about it and don’t give them any additional work.

5. Try to develop a command presence. Your presence at an emergency should send a message to the firefighters that everything is going to be okay. Regardless of how badly something is going, try to maintain a calm exterior. Motivate your people. This is done differently for each individual. If you give an order or tell them to get into a building, they should totally believe that you believe they can do it. Never tell a firefighter to do something you wouldn’t or couldn’t do yourself. Chiefs give orders on incomplete information regularly. Even if you have doubts about it, give the order as if you are 100% confident about it. Your confidence is a force multiplier.

6. Let them have fun. Nobody is getting paid for this. The younger guys have to enjoy themselves. At the same time, know when to pull in the reins, and when you do, jerk them hard. They still have to be professionals. You can’t be their buddy anymore. You are the man, and they have to recognize it as such.

7. Pace of change. Keep them sullen but not mutinous. The pace of change has to be fast enough that the young guys see progress, but not so fast that the dinosaurs get riled up. As long as both groups are slightly unhappy, you’re doing fine.

8. Don’t be afraid to piss somebody off. If you’re not pissing somebody off once in a while, you’re not doing your job.

9. Encourage training certifications. Push the guys to get their Firefighter 1 and other certificates. The time is fast coming when what you are able to do, and what positions you can hold in a fire department virtually anywhere will be determined by these certificates. At the same time, work to keep things in perspective. Firefighter 1 or 2 does not equal “super firefighter”.

10. Develop junior officers. The greatest legacy a chief can have is by the officers he leaves behind.