My five year promise…

23 May

In the summer of 2009, I made a pledge to myself that I would work as diligently as I could to become a successful writer. Mind you, I did this at the beginning of a health crisis with my son which grew to epic and hair-graying proportions. I have raised three step-children since they were very little, and they were in the full force of teenage hormonal and emotional meltdowns. My wife and I have been raising kids together since we met in 1998, and I knew that finding the time to write while trying to take advantage of scarce time alone (although somewhat more plentiful since the twins were a bit more independent) would be a difficult task. So many things have happened since that day that I made the promise. My little boy suffered from a dangerous neurological disorder, severe arthritis and many other maladies associated with an auto-immune disorder. Conflicts and problems abounded. My wonderful father-in-law an invalided Vietnam vet came to live with us, hospice and die. I have dutifully driven 50+ miles north every school day to teach teenagers literacy.

Now, this very week, as the fourth year anniversary of my promise is but one month away, my daughter has had heart surgery, one of my twins has to go on a heart monitor next week, and my other twin is suffering from an as yet undiagnosed thyroid condition. I look around as the school year winds down and think of my so-called writing career and feel a dreadful sense of inertia. Have I done enough? So, perhaps for my own sake, I’d like to share with the world my efforts, so that at least I can take stock and then speculate as to where I should go next. If there is anyone kind enough to read this ramble and has any ideas, comments or suggestions, please feel free to post below.

In 2009, I had written a mammoth 240k+ work of fantasy and a children’s fantasy novel. I endeavored to search the internet for places to send shorter works of fiction. I started and one month later I had made my first sale (my first attempted short fiction written for the anthology, for that matter). I took this as a good sign. I wrote as many zombie stories (man, do people love those) that might get my name in print. By the time 2010 rolled around, I had nearly two dozen publishing credits. Then, I sent out the first volume of my now divided fantasy epic to a publisher.

In late 2010, I made the sale. Nearly a year later, Test of a Prince was published. I didn’t make any money from the sale, but it was encouraging. Then the publisher dropped off the map. In 2010-2011, I wrote a horror comedy, and sold it to the same publisher. My contracts sat, my work languished and I felt a frustrated helplessness to do anything to make my name known. Then in 2011-2012, I wrote a new fantasy novel, The Wardmaster and sold it to a different publisher. In 2012 I managed to get a hold of the old publisher and got the rights back for my earlier works. I sold Hairy Bromance to yet another small publisher and began the work of getting my fantasy trilogy self-published. To prepare for this, I collected many of the best short horror stories into The Night Library and self-published it. For a while in 2012, this book did reasonably well for a first kindle book and I even made the bestseller list for a few minutes. I self-published Test of a Prince, got some great reviews and then the sales fell off the map. In 2013, I wrote The Bone Snake, a supernatural action fantasy, which featured some characters that first appeared in The Wardmaster. I published the second volume of The Vale of Shade series. Sales continue to trickle in at a fourth of what they were a year ago. I have had to hire editors, and the income does not come near to covering the overhead of this literary endeavor.

Now, I have the final book of The Vale of Shade trilogy edited, and am waiting for a cover to put that out. The Bone Snake waits for a rewrite, and my daughter (a talented artist) is working on some illustration of the children novel I wrote back in 2005.

Now, what do I do? I am in the middle of writing another novel set in the same locale and with many of the same characters as The Wardmaster (which has only sold a handful of copies). I have started to self-publish in the hopes that I can put them on free for kindle and drum up reviews and interest. I have sent novels out in the past to major publishers only to have waited over a year for a response. Almost everyone who reads the books that I write say that they enjoy them. It really is a matter of having people realize that you are out there. The question is other than sitting in the few tiny bookstores in the area for one person to buy a copy of my book and annoying my Facebook friends with self-promotion, what can one do?

I have been told by the few people in my life who have avidly read my stuff that I should turn my attention to screen plays. I have been trained by professionals in that arena, and it sounds like fun, but I fear losing track of the epics into which I have already invested so much time. In the end I write because I love to. It is gratifying to hear how much someone loved my work, but I will continue to write, regardless if I sell anymore books or not. It would be nice, however, if I could afford to write more. I have to finish this novel that I am more than half-finished, but the rest of my summer lies open and waiting like a mystery waiting to be solved.

Will I turn the story of monster hunting motorcycle mamas (The Bone Snake) into a screenplay, or Hairy Bromance? Will I start that young adult superhero series I’ve always wanted to read? I just don’t know. I know that I have met my five-year challenge, but would like to be writing professionally within the next five years. That means I’ll be forty-five. Heck, I did this much, why not shoot for the moon.

If you love fantasy, wonder, humor and gothic adventure, please check out any of my stories and novels. Better yet, tell everyone you know. They’ll hopefully thank you, and so will I. Until then, I will be tucked away in my study and writing inter-dimensional stories of frightful adventure and wondrous fantasy. Good luck to you in your endeavors and don’t be strangers.

Trav

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