Usually, I'm all too ready to type away, but this time, I'm gonna let my face do the talking....
So, it’s been a while since I made a blog post here. July, in fact. A lot has happened since then. So, first the good. I released the 5th book in the Demon’s Apprentice series, Prom Knight on March 25th. It’s doing well, hitting the top 100 on several charts on Amazon. It’s been a long time coming, and hopefully, the next one will show up sooner.
There was a reason for the delay. One piece of advice authors are constantly given is to take care of themselves physically. I learned the hard way how deeply connected mind and body can be. Over two and a half years or so of sitting at a desk and not exercising enough took a toll on my health, until I ended up with very high blood pressure and type II diabetes. It affected my ability to stay focused and write, and worst of all, it affected my state of mind. All of that put me in a position where I had to go back to having a day job again, even before I knew the extent of the damage the whole situation had done to my body.
The day everything changed, my legs hurt so bad I was in tears, and I could barely think straight. My manager sent me, not home, but to the ER. And I’m thankful she did. I had wounds on my legs that were not healing, my blood pressure was out of control, and my blood sugar was above the threshold for diabetes. I weighed over 330 pounds and I could barely walk more than 50 feet without having to sit down and rest.
My life changed in that moment, and for the better. I changed my diet, I started taking a medication for my blood sugar, and perhaps most importantly, I stopped drinking soda and sugary drinks. The difference wasn’t instantaneous, but it was quick. In under a month, I had lost ten pounds, and my body started to recover. I kept losing weight, and the sciatica from the extra weight cleared up. I had more energy, I started sleeping better and I could focus again. It was like a religious experience, as if a fog that had settled around me had lifted. (Also, Type II diabetes is not insulin dependent. It can be treated to the point where medication is no longer necessary, and it reverts to “prediabetes.” I intend to achieve that goal.)
After that, I was able to put in a thousand words daily, even with working a day job. I finished Prom Knight in a matter of weeks and I’ve lost a total of 30+ pounds since December. I can walk without pain, and I don’t have to stop and rest every few yards. It’s like I got a whole new body.
Finishing Prom Knight presented its own challenges. My cover artist, whom I had come to rely on, had schedule changes of her own, and wasn’t available. Let me tell you, when you work with a pro like Angela for a couple of years, having to find someone to step in for them is an anxiety-laden process. Angie knows my cover style (she designed it after all) and knows how to make it look amazing every time. I am also comfortable asking her for minor changes. All in all, it’s always easy working with her. Now, I was looking for someone who could do a cover for me and keep the same look for the series.
Enter Gerry Kissel. Gerry had done the cover for the second Zompoc Survivor book, Inferno. I knew what he was capable of, and most importantly, I knew him. If anyone could step in and stay true to Angie’s original design, it was Gerry. And even better, I ran into him again at a convention right before I finished Prom Knight. Someone was looking out for me, I’m sure. Gerry did a great job bringing the cover to life.
In early March, I also got some good news from my agent on a couple of fronts. The one I can mention is that there may be audiobooks coming soon. More news on that as I get it.
Prom Knight is doing well, and I’m working toward going full time again in a year or so. Until then, I have a plan and I’m following it. Life is good again, and I feel like I did back when I started this journey toward gainful unemployment as a writer. For everyone who is still along for the ride, thank you for sticking with me. I’m going to try to get back to posting regularly as I work toward once again being gainfully unemployed and writing for a living.
There are some moments that are hard to describe, or even pin down, but they seem to define your life in that particular moment. One of those moments of clarity happened Saturday. I found myself sitting at a table in a coffee shop with a group of other creatives, discussing a project, and I realized that this was one of the moments I had dreamed about more than twenty years ago, when I first started chasing contrails.
May of this year marked 2 years that I’ve been writing for a living. This year, I’ve been fortunate enough to be a guest at almost every sci-fi con or show I’ve attended, a marked difference from previous years. While I’m still not doing DragonCon as a guest yet, I am hopeful that will come one day soon.
But no matter where I am on this journey, there are moments when I find myself looking around myself in wide eyed wonder at what I’m doing, as if I’m just realizing what’s happening. These moments of self-awareness are valuable to me, because they keep me grounded and, most importantly, they are reminders of just how lucky I am. Plus, they allow me, two years into writing full time, to enjoy this journey almost as much as I did the first day I walked out of my old day job and started this journey.
Saturday morning, I sat down with the folks to talk about doing the audio books of The Demon’s Apprentice for me. And while we were discussing the nuts and bolts of the project, I looked around me and realized how cool this moment actually was. I was making plans for an audio book, using words like revenue stream correctly, and making a living as a writer. Holy crap! I’m living my dreams!
It’s one thing to look back on a moment with nostalgia years later and realize how good things were. But it’s quite another to realize as things are happening that this particular slice of time is going to be one of those memories. It adds a sense of immediacy to what’s going on, and I find myself noting things that I might otherwise have missed. The sounds going on in the background, the view out the back windows, the children running by laughing gleefully. How very blue the sky was in that moment. All of these things are going to stand out in my memory, as well as the people I was talking to.
More importantly, I find myself grateful for the smallest things. As I looked around the room, I noticed younger folks with their laptops and sketch books. One girl was working in pencil, with her laptop open to a tutorial. Seeing them was incredibly inspiring, especially since they had tools I didn’t have access to in 1993. It made me want to tell each and every one of them, “Go all in! Never give up!” Because persistence pays off. Passion pays off, if you’re persistent. And integrity will keep you in the game when nothing else seems to be going your way.
But when the wheels finally turn, and the dice come up sevens for you, don’t forget to be aware of each moment. There is a line about happiness in Fallout 4, spoken by Kellogg, one of the first antagonists you face. “The thing about happiness is, you never know you’ve got it until it’s gone.” But that doesn’t have to be the case. Because if you teach yourself to be aware of your circumstances, to be grateful for the good things going on, you’ll know when you’re happy. You’ll know when you’re living through times that you’ll look back on and remember as “the good old days.” And you can enjoy them all the more for that awareness.
Shane Moore, a friend and mentor, recently made a post on his Facebook page about what to do when you feel frustrated with where you are in life.
"Whenever you feel like you're not getting anywhere in life, just turn around and look behind at the old you.
Where were you five years ago? Ten years ago? I bet you will be amazed at how far you have come in life!
And if not, time to stop dreaming and make the dream a reality!"
The difference even one year can make is amazing, but going back five and ten years? Those comparisons were even more astounding. So, going back, ten years ago.
2007 - I was just finishing up The Demon's Apprentice, and the most amazing thing in my life was getting a query from an established agent about my work. She ended up not representing me at the time, which was actually a good decision on her part. At the time, neither the book nor the author was ready. I had been working an entry level job for two years, and every day was a struggle. The only reason I was still there was because I had made a commitment to the woman who had hired me to be there for two years, and I took that promise seriously. Also, over time, I had come to respect her as a leader, and saw her on a fairly regular basis. More importantly, she remembered that promise and not only held me accountable to it, she acknowledged that I had kept my end of it. Every day after that, while it was rough, was a point of pride to me, that I was worthy of the faith someone had put in my word. I had a dream, and I was not only chasing it, I felt like I had a real shot at it.
2012 - Five years later, my book was a real thing. I was selling copies at a convention, and other professionals were taking notice of me. Specifically, Gerry Kissell and Shane Moore, who had been willing to talk top me about my dream of writing professionally. I was also blessed to meet Patricia Briggs and her husband, Mike, who not only bought a copy of The Demon's Apprentice, he reviewed it favorably on their website. I had done it. I was a published author. But, I was a published author languishing in obscurity. A few people could see potential, but not the thousand readers I needed.
2015 - Holy crap! On May 4th, two years ago, I was having daily, no, make that hourly, reality checks, bordering on anxiety attacks. It was the BEST STRESS EVER. I was just coming off of two straight months of massive sales, and I had enough money in the bank to live for one year at my old wages. My letter of resignation at my old job had been handed to my boss three days before, tucked into a copy of my first self-published book. In eleven days, I was going to be a full time writer, living solely off of my own efforts. I was scared, excited and on top of the world. My life was right where I had always wanted it to be.
2016 - In May of 2016, I was on my way to X-Con, in Myrtle Beach SC, when I got the call every writer wants to get. It was from Trodayne Northern and Leslie Varney, telling me that they wanted to sign me with Prentis Literary. A chance conversation in a hallway at NorWesCon two months before had brought me to their attention, and over the intervening months, they had remembered me and decided to represent me. Life was good and getting better.
Today, I'm preparing to go to my first writers conference as a full guest and present two panels. So far, I'll be appearing as a guest at three more conventions this year, and there is the possibility of more before the year is out. The moral of this story?
Dreams can come true, if you work for them and don't lose sight of your goals. So, always, my friends and readers, keep your head up and keep chasing contrails.
May the Force be with you. Always.
Some days, you just have to raise your glass and know when you've given enough fucks about what other people think. You have to embrace your past, mistakes and all, let go of it and give those who can't let your past go the send-off they deserve,
Embrace who you are. Be your One, True Self. Be true to what you beleive in...but don't be a dick about it.
It seems great minds think alike. While this was originally a passing nod to personal integrity, I think it has become something more today. Lately, I've seen a little bit of genre bashing, like you do, and people have, of course, reacted passionately about it.
Truth is, things like genre bashing or "it's all been done before" arguments and so on are gonna happen. People, unfortunately, are like that sometimes. Some folks enjoy smacking around other peoples' dreams. Soemtimes, it's because the idea of pursuing a creative path is out of line with the expectations people have set for themselves or their social class. Growing up in a middle class family that clawed its way up from lower class, my parents were ALL about taking the path of least resistance to financial stability. Pursuing a creative path was considered more of a risk than trying to become a professional athlete in my step-father's eyes.
No matter why people will push back against your path as a creative, you have to choose to pursue that path with all the fire and passion in your soul. I often compare it to the dedication an Olympic athlete puts into training. You don't get to the point where you earn enough from your writing if you don't work harder at your craft than 98% (okay, these days, it's more like 80% if you're self-published LOL) of other writers. You have to be true to your craft, true to your goals and true to yourself. You have to want it enough to make art even when it isn't easy; to work on your story while the other guy is waiting for the Muse to strike; you have to give yourself permission to write badly so you can do an end run around writers block while other writers are banging their head against a wall. You have to write when you would rather watch TV. You have to learn how to market yourself and build your brand as an author...even if all you want to do is write. You have to learn the industry, even the stuff that is wrong with it.
Art is beautiful. But BEING an artist takes work and dedication. It takes integrity. And soemtimes...integrity is hard.
Yesterday, I mentioned that I had the chance to see Halestorm live last year. There is jsut somethign amazing about being at a concert that no radio edit or recording can ever do true justice to.
Today's Halestorm music selection features Lzzy playing "Close My Eyes Forever" with the incomparable Lita Ford, one of the original women of rock, a week after I got to see them play. Halestorm kicks ass on their own, but when they play with other people, both Lzzy and Arejay have a knack for both being at their own best, but also encouraging the person they're jamming with to bring their A game. I got to see Lzzy do it with Lita and Dorothy, and I got to see Arejay do it with Bobby Rock during his amazing drum solo.
During their set, Lzzy made it a point to bring Lita and Dorothy back on stage and sing their praises. She sang with them and even had them sing on theior own. She shared the spotlight, and made the stage that much brighter.
In the world of creatives, be they authors, musicians, visal artists or actors, community is an emerging factor in our success, especially among independent folks like me. Without your community, it's just you. But WITH your community...you become a force of nature. Never be afraid to speak well of a fellow creative. It never makes you look bad.
This week is about sticking to your guns. Too often, creatives get frustrated with their path and quit before they reach their true potential, or they listen to people who tell them they're never going to make it and, worse yet, they LISTEN to them.
But behind almost every success story is a person who
Yesterday, I featured a song by Lindsay Stirling, who was told there was never going to be a market for what she did. As a child, she was diagnosed with crossed dominance, which was corrected using an eye-patch. It caused her some problems until she decided tow ork with it and pretend she was a pirate. To quote from her auto-biography, The Only Pirate At The Party:
"Pirates don't take orders or ask permission,... They do what they want. Allow me to clarify. If your mom asks you to do the dishes, do not pull out your pirate attitude. But if someone tells you you’re not good enough, says your dreams are too lofty, or claims there is no room in showbiz for a dancing violinist — well then, by all means, pull out your eye patch, my friend, and take to the high seas."
One of the artists Lindsay has worked with is Lzzy Hale, co-founder of Halestorm. Lzzy and her brother Arejay have been making music since she was 13 and he was 10. They first started Halestorm on 1997, but it wasn't until 2005 that they got their first recording contract, and not until 2012 that they went big with "I Get Off."
It only took them 15 years to become an overnight success.
In April of last year, I got to see Halestorm here in Springfield with Lita Ford and Dorothy. All through the show, she was adamant about following your dreams and staying true to yourself. I had started writing full time less than a year before, so her show was a huge affirmation to me that I was ont he right track.
So when you're fighting to keep going, being told to go with the flow, remember, this is YOUR dream, YOUR PASSION. Don't let anyone talk you out of being you. Be the Fire.
Halestorm will be my theme group for this week. For today, a thought on Mondays. The energy you start a thing with tends to stick with it all the way through. Whether it's your latest project, a trip, even your day or week, how you start affects how you end.
Start strong. End strong. Stay strong.
One thing you'll probably start to notice is that I like unknowns, underdogs. People who, like me, started from a place of either failure or at the bottom of a steep hill and built a strong, dedicated fan base on being true to who they are. These people are my inspiration as I make my career as an indy writer and branch out into traditional publishing in the future.
One of those people who inspire me to stay true to myself and my vision is Lindsay Sterling. Having been told continuously that her style is unmarketable, that she can't carry a show or fill an auditorium, she's defied that and gone one to sell over a million singles, have over 8 million subscribers to her YouTube channel and have one of the top ten most viewed videos on YouTube.
Electric Daisy Violin was the first of her videos that I absolutely fell in love with when I was first entering the world of being an actual published author. Iremember seeing it a few months after she put it out, and immediately adding her to name to my list of artists who I would always watch and wanted to meet some day. If you're ever having a bad day, it's a good one for a boost to your spirits.
Continuing the theme from yestarday, today's music selection comes from Steam Powered Giraffe, another of my few steampunk band choices. I've been following them for several years, watching them evolve not only as a band, but as people. Rabbit's (later Bunny) on stage robot miming is spot on, and The Spine's vocal skills are a joy. And then there is that guy in the background who plays a mean guitar. If you're having trouble keeping up, don't worry. You'll get to know the boys & girls of SPG better over the coming year.
Now, without further ado, I present for your enjoyment, "Me And My Baby (Saturday Night)"
Song #6 of 2017 is Steampunk Revolution, by Abney Park.
I am, at best, a casual fan of steampunk, in that I enjoy the aesthetic, reading stories with steampunk style settings and like the Victorian Era. But steampunk is one of those genres that takes some dedication to do right. You can't just slap some gears on something and call it steampunk. A pair of goggles on yoru head doesn't make your costume steampunk, either.
IN short, steampunk is more than a fandom. It's pretty much a lifestyle. That's the primary reason I haven't written anything in the steampunk genre so far. I'm not there yet. Maybe some day, maybe some day soon. Just not...today.