2015 was by far my most successful year to date as a writer. Since my first pro sale in 2009 I have pursued two seemingly contradictory goals. The first is to prioritize creating work that I feel speaks to some universal or emotional truth above creating work for the express purpose of making money. The second is to make money. In 2015, I achieved both.
I am fortunate in this regard as I have always been physically fit, employable and more than willing to work hard. I’ve never had a problem finding and holding down blue collar jobs suited to feeding my art both financially and in terms of subject matter. This has left me free to follow my muse at will. In this, I consider myself very fortunate. I suppose I could, in the interest of making money from home, always write ad copy or technical manuals, click-bait or porn – all honorable pursuits. But for me being an artist is as much a journey of personal and global exploration as it is a chosen career path. Balance is key. Where I once resented having to leave the keyboard to venture out into the world, I now see the acts of writing and holding down a day job as two sides of the same coin. The day-job feeds the art. And in the absence of a family to support, the art gives me a reason to get up and go to work in the morning.
George Orwell once wrote:
Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.
In my case, there has never been any shortage of demons (I have hinted and, in some cases, written openly about these demons elsewhere.) The trick has been to tame them to the point at which, broken and muzzled, they can be led into the barn and saddled for the ride to hounds. Suffice it to say that, in 2015, the hunt led me to publish two novels (KEZZIE OF BABYLON and THE BOOK OF ASHES), one novella (GAVIN’S WAR) and two pieces of short fiction, one of which was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to produce an original James Bond tale (“Daedelus” which appears in ChiZine’s LICENCE EXPIRED: THE UNAUTHORIZED JAMES BOND, a great collection I am told, for I have yet to receive my copy). In addition to this, I also produced four guest blogs for some wonderful colleagues: Cat Rambo, Sean Smith and Dave Wilbanks.
The money? The money was pretty good this year. Best it’s ever been. But the real payoff has been my satisfaction with the quality of the work, the professional connections I have made along the way (publishers, editors and fellow writers) as well as my ongoing and deepening connection with my readers. I am blessed with a small but fiercely loyal readership, many of whom have reached out to me on social media to become valued friends. It is to them that I renew my pledge never to produce anything but my best. They deserve nothing less.
I deserve nothing less.
That is a great deal accomplished for one year. I embark upon 2016 with a raft of short fiction already under consideration by magazine editors and a new novel on the rails. Entitled AT THE CROSSROADS OF MADNESS, it is a Lovecraftian tale featuring none other than famed bluesman Robert Johnson as protagonist. This has led me to read numerous books and essays about Johnson, reconnect with my love of the blues (both listening and playing) and explore those regions of my psyche where the bleaker demons dwell. To make things even more exciting, I can report that several publishers have already approached me requesting to see the finished manuscript. I consider this a great compliment. I am both humbled and grateful.
I imagine 2016 as a vast and fertile plain surveyed from a hilltop where I wait at the head of a small but loyal band of cavalry. In the silence before battle, I hear the creak of saddles, the clink of weapons, the fluttering of standards. They say battles are won or lost before they even begin. In both the art of war and the war of art I can say, with absolute certainty, that I am ready to lead the charge.