When I wake up tomorrow morning, Dragonblood will be available for sale across online booksellers around the world. It’ll mark my 10th original book publication, and the 7th full-length novel to be unleashed upon the world from the dark recesses of my twisted mind. Quite honestly, this is the first time I’ve actually counted them, and that kind of gives me pause. How many writers out there lose track of their books? Is there anyone who would have passed a milestone like that and not notice?
Years ago, when my stories were being madly scribbled into the back of my ECON101 and PHIL210 notebooks, I kept meticulous track of every single title. No, seriously. Look:
I found this the other day while looking for an old story I’d written back in high school. Seems I kept these records until a year or so after my first book got published and then either gave it up, or forgot about it. I still have most of these titles saved in odd folders around my hard drives, but many of them I’ve already forgotten. What I do remember is the sense of pride and accomplishment I got from completing each one. Looking at these spreadsheets made me feel like, even though I was still in school, in a major I disliked, and later in a day job I hated, I still had this. I was how old? And I’d created all of this.
My first ever published works are on those lists. Not my first ever written works, though; the records don’t go that far back.
Those lines of titles and dates represent a snapshot of a pretty intense period of my life. It was a time when my dreams were bigger than the world. I was so driven to write as much as possible, as quickly as possible, to get published as early as possible so I could maybe avoid having to get a soul-killing day job at all, and build a writing career that could support me financially right after college. I would research agents and publishers all the time. I would submit to writing groups, magazines, contests, even agencies and publishers, desperate to avoid the fate I knew even then was waiting for me. Always pushing ahead. Eyes on the prize. More was better; not writing meant time being wasted.
Despite outward appearances, I was (and still am) a realist. I knew that as soon as I had to report to work on a full time basis, my writing would go by the wayside; that if I got a job I liked, I would give up writing all together, in favor of making a steady paycheck at a profession that took all of my time and brain power. That’s why I was so driven. I imagined myself dragging my feet across the threshold at the end of the day, bleary eyed and exhausted, falling asleep in front of the TV.
And then I got that hated first job (yikes!), a 2-week sub-in that turned into a 5-year purgatory, which underscored all of my deepest fears of becoming another cog in the corporate machine, slowly killing myself for decades to come. But right on the heels of stepping foot into that purgatory I got my first acceptance letter. There was still hope! All was not lost. Here was my chance at redemption–I could escape the torment in possibly just a few months! So I worked harder.
Still, I was well aware that I had a better chance of winning the lottery jackpot three times in a row than making the NY Times Bestsellers list with my first book, published with a small, digital-only press. But I had hope. Better, I had a plan. Because I’m not a person who leaves things to chance or fate; I am the maker of my own destiny, and by all the gods, I will make it, come hell or high water. Which was why, by the time I submitted Blood Moons around the publishing block, I’d already had a finished draft of Blood Trails and was halfway finished with Blood Debts. At that point, my biggest fear was that I’d run out of ideas and wouldn’t be able to make the publisher’s deadline for the next book (not knowing publishers don’t give you a deadline unless they contract for multiple future titles, which mine did not). I also had two other series in the ideas folder, and a milestone marker for success mounted for the future.
I gave myself until the age of 30 to make this work and pay for itself (and me). If it worked, I would retire from the 9-5 to a little cottage somewhere with minimal utilities bills and no mortgage, and just write my heart out for the rest of my life. And if it didn’t, I was going to retire my writing cap and “grow up.” Six years, according to everything I’d read, was a fairly realistic goal. That would make 6 titles, and everyone said when you get to 5, that’s when the big bucks start rolling in. eBooks were exploding, everyone seemed to be a “bestselling author,” I was getting good reviews, doing blog hops, author interviews, and all the things they tell you to do, so I had every expectation that things would work out exactly as they should.
Today, here I am in the trailing end of 2016, 30 years old, and (surprise, surprise!) nowhere near financially ready to retire from the 9-5. However, I’m nowhere near ready to retire from writing, either. My path took a turn. I switched jobs. I took a nose dive into self-publishing to go it all alone. I learned a ton about things most people don’t even bother thinking about. I mastered new skills, learned from past mistakes, adapted my strategy. I did, in fact, “grow up.” Just not the way I expected. I have come to realize that writing, for me, isn’t something I can pick up at the tender age of ten, and expect to give up cold turkey two decades later. It’s part of me, and will always be. I may not be retiring into the lap of luxury and writing on the beach any time soon (unless someone has a winning lottery ticket they want to send me! 😉 ), but I still find too much joy in penning fantastic tales to give it up.
For years I’ve worked so hard, always looking ahead, always planning, calculating, preparing. I don’t regret any of it–it’s brought me this far at a pretty tender age for an author, and I’m grateful for that. My only regret is that the constant push forward has made me forget to look back. All those charts above, all those stories… what an amazing feat of accomplishment! Why did I ever stop giving myself time and permission to be proud of each and every one of them? I don’t want to skim over release days anymore. I don’t want to forget what number book I’m writing at the moment, or skim over one in favor of another. They should all matter. Otherwise, why am I bothering to publish them at all, right?
So here’s my new plan:
Go with the flow.
No more spreadsheets, charts, milestones, or deadlines. No more looking ahead. Just enjoy the moment, and every step I take on this journey, wherever it may lead. Celebrate each new story as if it were the first.
This one is a firedance
Dragonblood was born of a dream within a dream. It was spawned from a random idea inside its predecessor, The Royal Wizard (found in the spreadsheet above as “The Royal Mage”), which had been written and set aside, and later resurrected, rewritten, and published as my very first, full-length Indie title. The first book was a piece of my childhood that refused to remain dormant. Its sequel is that innocence and sense of magic carrying over into my adult life, breathing magic into the part of me which had almost stopped believing.
Dragonblood is a reminder to me of where I’d come from, and how I got to where I am today. I was born in magic, raised by Otherkind, and I’ve fought my way here with blades forged in Dragonfire. I chose my own path, despite everyone telling me every step of the way how ill-advised it was, and I made it work.
And I am nowhere near finished.
Find Dragonblood at your favorite online bookseller:
Until next time! =)