Sitting at my desk with my Border Collie demanding my attention (she grabs her toy of choice, slips under my desk and shoves it in my lap so I will toss it across the living room...she can do this for hours!), sipping coffee, and glancing at my aquariums (my NEWEST hobby) while eating fresh berries and yogurt. I have steaks marinading for the barbecue tonight. On my KDP sales page, I am having my BEST MONTH EVER! All of this might seem trivial...but considering where I was a mere 14 months ago...where I spent 13 years of my life...this is HEAVEN. Less than a year after my return to society, I am able to quit my day job and focus on my dream job of being a writer. That is just one of the things that makes this country great...if your work hard and put all your heart into following your dreams...you CAN succeed. But it ain't easy.
After the first few months of Zomblog being available, the reviews started coming in and they were surprisingly favorable. I say surprisingly because I had never intended it to be read as an actual novel. It was a warm-up exercise. Also, I started getting asked by a couple of friends who read it, "When are you gonna write the next part?" I was currently up to my eyes in Dead: The Ugly Beginning. It was going well and I was actually a bit excited because I had decided to "borrow" from George R.R. Martin and his Game of Thrones book. I was going to write my zombie book in rotating chapters. I had Steve, The Geeks, and Vignettes. That last chapter would just be snapshots of what was happening around the world. However, I started discovering that a few of those vignettes would have to carry over beyond just one chapter. Also, I was in the process of compiling and editing May December Publications' first anthology: Eye Witness: Zombie.
Let me take an aside moment to mention that compiling an anthology is A LOT of work. And even offering up "just" a contributor's copy is an expensive undertaking. The best parts were reading a story and feeling so blown away that somebody would send such a great story to ME! After all, we were just getting started and had not even started to gain a name for ourselves. Yet, some of those submissions for Eye Witness: Zombie really floored me. (Childish Things by William Wood and Baby Killer by Ron Harris are still two of my favorites--for very different reasons. I still giggle when I think of a man trapped inside a killer whale outfit and hopping down a hallway to try and escape zombies.) After almost three years, we are just now starting to be able to offer little stipends to some of our wonderful anthology contributors.
I decided that I would write two more books in the Zomblog series (that has since changed and I have just finished the fourth book because fans of the series have asked for it...and the readers are who I consider to be my boss). The Zomblog books would give me a break between the DEAD books. However, I was really focused on Dead: The Ugly Beginning. I completed it and decided that I wanted to release it on my son Cody's birthday. I don't know what I expected. I had sold close to a hundred copies of Zomblog by the time it came out. Yep...a hundred. Not great...but I just knew that Dead: The Ugly Beginning was going to change things. It was out for three days before it finally sold its first copy. I was beyond discouraged. How was it that nobody else was seeing my genius? Or...maybe I'm not that good. Those were the thoughts I did battle with.
I shook off those feelings and went right to work on Zomblog II. I believed That I learned a great deal since the first one and actually had an endgame in mind for this installment. I tried to ignore the fairly abysmal sales of my first two books. Dammit! I was a good writer. I knew it. It would just take time. Folks would start coming around. It was not too long after the release of Dead: The Ugly Beginning that a group of people took it upon themselves to decide that I should not be writing. How could anybody read my work? After all, I was in prison. I should not have a life...I should not be allowed to prove to society that I am worthy of reintegration. I should be judged solely on past deeds. Even better...people with no actual knowledge decided to simply fabricate what they knew nothing about. Again...this is not a place for me to debate my criminal record, the fact that people do time and may not actually be guilty--unless you think the criminal justice system is perfect and NEVER makes a mistake--to defend myself or anything else of the sort is just pointless. However, I will say that very few publishers, editors, or writers have provided as much detail about their private life as I have. How do you know what sort of person each writer that submits to your anthology is in real life? What do you really know about that editor or publisher you work with? Everybody has skeletons in their closet...but the difference between them and me is that I keep my closet door open. I wasn't "discovered"...I put my stuff out there on my own.
This whole time, every instance where I was considering whether or not to just walk away, there was Denise telling me, "You can't quit your dream. It will happen if you just give it time." There were so many opportunities to give up. "Why would you want to write?" "Why subject yourself to this frustration?" Those questions bounced around inside my brain almost daily. The answer was simple: It's what I do. It's what I love. I don't feel whole if I am not creating something with words. I picked up my pen and dove into Zomblog II. My brain was in overdrive and I already felt story lines forming for the second book in the DEAD series. I even had a working title: Dead: Revelations. Dammit...I didn't just WANT to write. I NEEDED to write...