Friday, November 29, 2013

Why would ANYBODY want to write for a living? (The finale!)

I admit it...I am out there doing the Black Friday thing. Hate if you must, but for me, this is something that I actually find fun and enjoyable. And to make it even better, I go out of my way to be as kind and polite as possible to the people behind the register. I figure they have a rough day ahead...a smile will be worth its weight in gold. But if you are sitting at home reading this...enjoy!

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 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...

Every day, somebody steps off the ledge of security to follow a dream. Sadly, the landscape is littered with the decaying corpses of many a dream that has died. Many starve after they are deemed too difficult to maintain. Often, those dreams are treated by those closest to The Dreamer as brazen and filthy harlots that drag The Dreamer away from responsibility and duty. How many songs bemoan "the Boulevard of Broken Dreams"? Yet, like a siren's song, they beckon...and far too many unwary pursuers end up crashing on the rocks.

Not all who chase their dream are destined to fail. I am chasing a dream that so many share. I want to be a writer. Not just a person who has a few books out that are read by friends and family. Excuse me if I offend, but anybody can do that if they choose. I want to be read by thousands...millions. I want to walk into a coffee shop and see my book in somebody's hands, or hear two people chatting about it over dinner. I want to walk into a theater and see a preview for it during the "Coming Attraction" before the feature film or catch a commercial for it while I am watching HBO, AMC, or even the SyFy channel. Simply put...I want to hit the "Big Time" and achieve "Best Seller" status. I want to have sales numbers that match my KDP freebies. (To date, in 10 combined promo days, Zomblog has given away over 50,000 copies, doing over 10,000 in 48 hours on the average.)

Doesn't that seem to fly in the face of a lot of what I have said? That whole "write because you love it" thing and the "I don't want to write...I have to write!" Those are true. However, I would be lying to you and to myself if I did not admit that I covet the successful end of the spectrum. I am not afraid of fame or success. Odd as it seems, there are many people who are terrified of those two states of being. It can be a scary thing to some. By nature, many writers are not all that gregarious. They were the wallflowers or the kids picked last in gym they turned to books. Some are very uncomfortable in the spotlight and might lack certain social skills due to years of introversion. Let's face it...that is why the social media is their haven. Give a writer a keyboard and remove the actual interpersonal interactions of true relationships and they are in their realm of comfort.

In April of this last, 2012, I walked away from my "day" job. My book sales had reached a point where I could pay my bills. It was time to step off the ledge. I am fortunate that I am married to somebody who accepts my "mistress" without feeling threatened by it. With several of my books reaching triple-digit sales each month (versus triple-digit totals for the year like they did in 2011) it was time to see if I could do this.

So, why do I write? After all...isn't that what I said this whole column was going to reveal. Truthfully? Ego. For me there is no greater rush than when I get an email or letter saying that I made a person laugh or cry with nothing more than my words on paper. When I have people who make a comment about one single line in my book that they say "touched their heart" or made them feel just a bit queasy. I write because I love hearing I have become somebody's favorite. I write because I get a thrill when a story takes a turn that I never saw coming. (Like I said earlier...I don't use an outline.) When a complete stranger thinks enough of my work to spend the time to write a review like this:

"I have never been moved to write a review for the products that I have purchased on Amazon or any other site before. But after reading this book, and several others from Mr. Brown. I cannot put it off any longer.I have read several zombie books that are of good quality, and even more that were.... well to be honest, downright sucked. I saw this book on Amazon and decided to give it a shot. Well, I must tell you that as far as I am concerned, after reading Mr. Brown's books I have placed him as one of the best writers for me. I devour his books at every chance I get. I will give up sleep just to read more of his work. ... Mr. Brown has done what most authors cannot do, or have a hard time doing. And that is making me believe that this is happening. I can see this playing out in real life if this was to happen.I truly wish this author the most success available for him, simply because the more success he gets the more of his craft I will be able to enjoy. I know he reads these reviews, and I want him to know that I consider his work, his craft, his ability as a writer to be one of the greats. Thank you for sharing your story Mr. Brown." 

I could share a hundred other such things (personal update, I just received one that truly touched my life and my heart...look back a few blog posts and see for yourself.)...some from reviews, others from emails or letters. THAT is why I write. When somebody says that about your work...about what you do for a is a wonderful feeling. Many people long to hear those sorts of things at a job they hate or can barely tolerate. Can you imagine what it feels like to hear that about something that you do because you love it? I may not be wealthy yet...but I am richer now than at any point in my life. Is it scary at times? Sure. But I wouldn't give it up for anything. I get to say something every day that so few can utter as they head off to work. "I am doing what I love."


  1. you touch so many peoples lives, in such a positive way!!

    1. I hope that always remains a truth. And I am thankful for friends like you.

  2. You deserve ALOT of respect, you definitely get it from me
    You are to me the best author in the whole world..!!
    I talk about your books to everybody and I'm always telling them "read this it's going to be on tv someday..I swear to God"

    1. Thank you Cathy. Like I said, it is just that sort of comment that I live for.