Thursday, January 1

Looking back, looking forward

It's been a rough year. Not just for me, but since my life is the one I know the most intimately--the one I have to live--mine is the one I feel the most acutely. That doesn't mean I think my problems are bigger than anyone else's. In point of fact, I know they're not. I have some very near and dear friends going through something that makes me feel like a selfish git for whining. 

But here goes, anyway:

This time last year, my husband and I were facing the very real prospect of being...well, not homeless, we knew we'd figure something out, but certainly there was the possibility that whatever we figured out, it could mean giving up a lot of things. The "things" were okay--I have more stuff than I need and I know it--but the (very real at the time) prospect of giving up our dog (because he's 40lbs and that's apparently "big" by most standards) was something neither of us could fathom. We knew we could return him to the rescue where we got him--we'd signed an agreement to that Just no. He's a member of the family, same as the cats. The thought of losing any of them, like that especially, was heartbreaking. 

Ultimately, we bought a wonderful old house in Detroit and I had grandly optimistic ideas that by this time *this* year the walls would be up and painted and it would be my dream home.

Yeah. Cut to Dec. 31, 2014 and there's still a butt-ton of work to be done...but I love my house! 

But. There's always a but.

Financially, we were supposed to be better off after we walked away from our place in the suburbs. But the process of moving was more expensive than I planned for, so long story short, if I don't sell this book I've been working on for, oh, the last two years (to be fair, I've worked on it on and off, along with other projects) we won't be able to pay the taxes. (On the upside, our tax bill went from $7000 a year to about $900, which is something I can actually cover by selling a couple of books!)

Between all of that, plus some stuff that's too personal (to other people, but still, it affects my life because I love them dearly) to write about here, I haven't put out a new book in over a year. I haven't even finished a book in over a year (except for Tentacles and Chain  :)  )  

And I totally get it Writing is a job. You have to treat it like a job. But it's not like waiting tables or working retail or even working in a library. While there are set tasks to accomplish every day when you're an author, they're tasks that require the brain to be fully functional, not-stressed-out, and yes, there needs to be a certain amount of creativity flowing, even if it's merely a slow drip. Stress causes that drip to stop cold. 

Besides Life Stuff, this last year saw stress in the publishing world. Silver went and did whatever the hell happened last year (or year before?) and then in 2014, Ellora's Cave followed suit. I didn't have titles out with either publisher, but shit like that rocks a person's confidence in the market (although for the record, my publisher, Dreamspinner is freaking awesome. We get total transparency and the company follows a great business model and is headed up by an amazing woman.)  

Still, though, when the poop hit the fan with EC, I was gobsmacked. They were a big company. Popular. Successful...or so I thought. Seeing them go under (or whatever the hell happened, seeing as their website is still active) was a bit of a blow to my already fragile psyche for a number of reasons.

On the heels of that, there's this Kindle Unlimited nonsense that has a lot of people running and screaming that the sky is falling. Not to belittle their fears--some independent authors are suffering. Badly. KU is NOT good for authors. Unlike with Scribd, authors don't get a regular royalty, they have to split the pool of funds with every other author in the (growing) pool (growing because Amazon is making it painful for indies not to participate in the KU program).

The whole thing reinforces something that's been coming to a head for the last few years--you know, after I finally wrote and published my first book. It goes sort of like this:

In the beginning, when epublishing became easier (thanks to evolving technology), people made money. Lots of money. People were quitting their day jobs and sending their kids to college on their royalty checks. A lot of those people were indie (self) published, but a fair number were published authors too. Everybody was happy. 

Then more people started doing writing books because hey, it's easy! (Well, the technology part of it, anyway.) 

The pond became bigger. 

Now it's an ocean and leviathans like Amazon are in charge of that ocean--and let's face it, Amazon is only looking out for its interests, not ours (mine, yours, anyone's.) I don't blame them for wanting to make money, but their business model is not author-friendly. That's why there are people who were making lots of money who are running around panicking because for them, the sky is falling. 

It's scary. And it's easy to fall into the trap of "shit, I missed the boat, I'm never going to make enough money to survive on my writing alone."

But negative thinking only leads to stress which makes that trickle of creativity that I'd been struggling with all last year (and especially in the last couple of months, as I've blown deadline after deadline--which is also stressful) to dry up even more. I'm not blaming anybody, I'm simply trying to move forward into 2015 with a clearer idea of where I went wrong in 2014. 

The "heyday" of epublishing is probably over. The market isn't dead; people are reading. Romance is never going to lose its appeal 

M/M is getting more popular every day.

But that means more authors. 

From the author's perspective, the market is glutted. Some of that is because wonderful, awesome people have realized "I can do that too!" and are writing because it brings them joy. That brings me joy (more books to read!) 

Some people are doing it to jump on the bandwagon and make a few bucks. (Newsflash: you'll still make more writing het). 

I will never see a $30,000 year. I won't send my kid to college on what I earn writing. (Perhaps in part because I refuse to write about billionaire dinosaurs turning their male secretaries gay*). I write at the pace I write. That's slow. It's painful. I don't write about happy, fluffy subjects. (Or pterodactyls abducting young virgins to have sex with them**.)  I could...well, maybe not the dino- and crypto-porn. If I wanted to make more money, I could churn out 60K books filled with happy fluff that would probably make a lot of readers very happy. There's a reason it sells so well. (And some of it is very well written happy fluff. I'm not knocking it, I just don't have those stories in me.)

*I'm serious. Look it up on Amazon.
**I'm really serious. Look it up on Amazon.

I'm all about angsty, long winded, tortured souls; characters who have been through hell and back (whether that hell reaches the page or not) and survived. I write about tattered edges and hard topics. 

My current WIP (almost, almost, almost done!!) is about a man who lost his partner to cancer two years ago and has been chugging along, churning his wheels, but not really living ever since. One night, he meets an 18 year old with pink hair and painted nails who is totally unlike anyone he's ever met before. What he doesn't know is that Andi is a prostitute. Not a high end rent boy, but street level sex worker. His life isn't "Pretty Woman" either. Drugs, alcohol, rape...that's what really happens on the street. He's not looking for Prince Charming, he just wants to get fucked by a guy he chooses for a change. 

Of course there is a happy ending. But it's been a hard write. The fact that I inadvertently ended up writing about something close to home (the cancer part, not the street level sex part) has made it harder. There were days when I didn't want to look at it and other days when I thought "I never want to write about anything bad again" because it was while I was working on Pasha and Daniel that I discovered a guy I'd known in high school (and been very close to at one time) was HIV+.  There was this weird fear that in writing about it....yeah, silly. I know. But the brain does funny things, sometimes  ;-)  

So what does all of this boil down to?

Simply this: here are my goals for the coming year. I hope they're realistic:

  1. Stay off the INTERNET! Okay, not really. But stop listening to the people whose skies are falling and concentrate on my own roof--and my own books. It's a dangerous trap to compare one's own earnings with another author's anyway. I am who I am and I write the books that I write. I hope if you're reading this blog, you like them! 
  2. My next project is Bound: Damaged Goods (which is about a third written already)
  3. After that, I have a couple of irons in the fire warming up: 
    1. An untitled novel with an African American piano student (classical music) who has to find a different career--and adjust his attitude--after an accident leaves him without the use of his right hand (of course he can still play, there are some awesome people out there--but like I said, he needs to adjust his attitude, too)
    2. Robin Hood set in the Olde West (thanks to a plot bunny from B. Snow) -OR- Mark and Brett's story (you may have met them in Hanging by the Moment, if you read it)  -OR- both? 
  4. There a couple of upcoming anthologies I'd like to try and submit to...if I can find the time and inspiration
  5. In my personal life, I have a house to fix up, a garden I want to plant (maybe, we might put that off a year), a Family Reunion to cook for in May, and some (lots of!) books I'd like to read.
And, in theory, once I'm back in the swing of it, I'll have things like beta reading for other authors and edits to look forward to as well as promote, promote, promote! (Which means, yes, I will get another newsletter out soon.) 


H.B. Pattskyn said...

Despite saying I wasn't going to do this, I did this, I read something about predictions for publishing in 2015 -- and I'm left feeling strangely optimistic. Or maybe "realistic" is a better word:

Anonymous said...

Ah, HB, this post resonates with me in so many ways. I had to make some sacrificial decisions in 2014 for economic reasons, and the fact that I had to make them feels like a huge failure on my part.

Writing went from being something I did for fun to something that absolutely had to help pay the bills, and that's a lot like hooking up a colt to the Budweiser Beer wagon and expecting him to pull it by himself.

It's also extremely difficult to write when you are stressed, depressed, and stretched to a breaking point--creativity doesn't usually thrive in that kind of toxic environment.

Like you, I feel as though I've missed the boat--that I didn't capitalize on the 'heyday' of publishing when you could ride Amazon's algorithms into the bestseller list and quit your day job. I don't even feel as though I can count on the writing to occasionally pay the mortgage. But, like you, I'm trying to let go of my expectations and simply *write*.

Finish the story, edit it, submit it, and put it out of my mind while I work on the next one. That's the only way I can justify spending so much time on something I love. :-)

Spend less time on social media (as addictive as that may be). Spend more time living my life so I have something to draw on when I want to tell another story.

Letting go of the hurt, resentment, and anger over how I could be struggling financially when I did everything I was told to do to be successful in this country: go to school, get an advanced degree, work hard, never take vacations, etc, etc.

The bottom line is that I love crafting and writing stories and sharing them with people. It's the promotion and the panic over whether they are 'doing well enough' or if I am going to 'make it' as a writer that is crippling me, so I am done with that. I'm going to write no matter what. I'm not going to count on it to pull my fat out of the fire though, not like I was before. The very worry over whether I was producing enough shut down the factory altogether. I'm going back to doing it out of love. That doesn't mean I'm not disciplined about it, or that it isn't a 'real' job for me. But I'm not going to hamstring myself before I even get out of the gate.

I choose to be optimistic about 2015 as well. *clinks glasses with you*

H.B. Pattskyn said...

Cheers Sarah!