It is the day before Thanksgiving. As you read this, odds are I am cooking. As a devout Food Network fan (Alton Brown is my HERO!), I have some new recipes and techniques I am dying to try! So, I leave you with my continuation of my "Why be an author" series.
When you are little, you have all those amazing dreams about what you want to be when you grow up. I grew up when some of the most common dreams were astronaut, the president, and Billy Jack. (If you don't remember Billy Jack...ask your parents or older siblings. Best Billy Jack line: "I'm gonna put my left foot on the left side of your face." How cool was it that he took his shoes off and that was the signal that he was about to kick butt!?!) But I digress...
As you grow older, life has a way of using a sniper rifle to pick off those dreams one at a time. Pretty soon, many of us settle. After all, chasing a dream is very difficult. So few can actually catch theirs. And you have to surround yourself with people who will help you overcome obstacles and face hardships. Oh yes...catching a dream can come at a steep price.
Just as my dream was about to come to fruition...I ended up in prison. This column is not about that. I have had that information on the May December Publications website since the company formed. (Of which I am NOT the registered owner, Denise is, I am merely a writer and editor.) I won't get into a debate about it or engage those who wish to try and provoke me. It started in 1989 and culminated in 1998. No matter what, I am not the man now that I was then. After three divorces, you have to start thinking "Maybe it's me." I spent my incarceration becoming a better person. I obtained my degree (only an Associates, but I did pull a 3.96 GPS...damn B in Calculus!) through Blue Mountain Community College and LSU. I took years worth of cognitive behavior courses to try and figure out why I was so full of hate and anger. I learned how to play guitar. I got a job helping inmates obtain their GED (some of my most rewarding work), and I became a hospice volunteer where I learned that no matter how bad I thought I had it...I wasn't going to die in prison. Not everybody I knew could say the same.
During that long period of my life, I had two choices: give up and become what is expected of me...or become the man I knew I could become if I was willing to work. I chose the latter. I set a goal of having three full-length books ready to go upon my release. I didn't count Dakota (which I received a letter from an actual New York agency who wanted to represent me while I was sitting in jail. I told them it wasn't a good time and I would have to pass.) It was during my pursuit of my degree that one of the teachers told me after I'd written a short zombie piece for a creative writing course, "You need to be writing all the time. You have a gift." That evening, during a phone call home to my wife, I mentioned writing a blog. Only, it would be fictional. It would be the story of a guy who lives through the zombie apocalypse. Denise said that if I wrote it and sent it to her, she would post it on an actual blog that she would create for me. Like I said earlier...if you chase your dreams, you need somebody who is willing to have your back and be there to support you. The dream was about to become tangible...
I've met and spoken with a number of writers who mourn the lack of family support. I hear them vent in frustration about how nobody--neither friends nor family--has so much as cracked a cover of even one of their stories. I can certainly understand their frustration and even hurt feelings. However, let me just take one moment to remind you that your family is NOT your target audience! I understand that you want those close to you to see just how amazingly talented you happen to be...but they are not ever going to BUY one of your books.
Now that I have spewed my hypocritical line of drivel...let me remind you that it was lack of support that drove me away from my dream time and again. The real truth is that we (referring to us writing types) are a very selfish bunch. Our pursuit of being a writer takes up far more time than most people realize (unless they are married to or in a relationship with a writer). It is not something that can normally be considered a couples, team. or group effort. It is a solitary effort that demands ALL of our focus. We shut out those same friends and family members who we later ask to read our latest piece. That is sorta like bringing home a girlfriend (or boyfriend) and asking your wife (or husband) to fix dinner for the three of you.
Our job requires that we try to find ways to make strangers interested in our wares. While we may make claims like "I don't write for the money." If you are trying to make a living at being a writer...that is a HUGE contradiction. I will admit here to all who care to read this that I am absolutely in this to make a living. I will sell out in a Florida Flash. I have a family to support. Last I checked, the electric company does not accept a pat on the back in lieu of payment. They want cash. Therefore...I need my books to sell.
This brings me back to where I left off yesterday: Zomblog. I finally had somebody who supported me once again. This time, she was willing to do more than just give me the green light. I need to make it clear that I NEVER intended for Zomblog to see print. It was a warm-up exercise as I got in shape to write my DEAD series. I actually wrote it day-by-day. When I felt I was ready to move on to my "real" novel, I wrapped it up. All the while, Denise was posting it in daily installments. It gained a bit of a following, including a small press. An offer was made to me to compile the entries and release it as a novel. I was blown away. I may have sprained my tongue saying "Yes!" so fast. Just before it was due to be released, the publisher wanted to change the contract. In short....more money for them and less for me. My response is not suitable for family viewing, but you get the point. I said "No thanks."
Just as fast as it had begun, the ride was coming to an end. kinda like an amusement park. You stand in line for three hours to ride a seventy second roller coaster. I was disappointed, but not devastated. After all, the DEAD series was my focus. However, Denise was not satisfied with that outcome. My wife (who happens to hold a Masters in accounting and business) filed all the paperwork and created a company using the copyright tag I used for my writing--May December Publications. I have used that dating back to when I wrote Dakota. My daughter Ronni was born on December 15th, my son Cody was born on May 30th, and my son Alexander was born on December 13th...hence, May December Publications, LLC. It was under that label that Denise had Zomblog printed. I received it for Christmas 2009. When you get a book sent in to you in prison, it is always neat...when it is YOUR book...it is inexplicably cool.
Having somebody in your life who not only understands, but actively supports your dream of being a writer is a treat. It is a luxury that I do not take for granted. My first several books, (the first two DEAD books, the first two Zomblog books, and Gruesomely Grimm Zombie Tales Volume 1) were handwritten by me, then sent home and typed by Denise. After several back and forth mailings and numerous edits over the phone, those books saw daylight. So...the truth is that none of that would have happened when it did had it not been for such amazing support.
So, the books started becoming available. The first month of release, I think Zomblog sold six copies. Disappointed does not quite cover it. The rush and the thrill of holding a physical copy of my book was quickly deflated by the reality of next to no sales. It was time to delve into the seedy underbelly of the writing world--the part none of us likes to talk about. Promotion. There is a fine line between promoting and being a nuisance. Also, just as I sat down to start on Dead: The Ugly Beginning, a letter came in and asked when the next book in the Zomblog series was going to be released. What next book? Crap...this was gonna be a bit harder than I thought.
Return Friday for the conclusion...
Return Friday for the conclusion...