|Nominated for ITW's Best Paperback Original...|
Ten years ago I was down and out...
After a stellar launch and a quarter million dollar advance on my first novel, I did something stupid. I assumed those great big advances would keep rolling in every year like Christmas. All I'd have to do is write 60,000 words and collect the dough.
I was young, immature, stupid, and I freakin' blew it.
Instead of continuing on as a freelance journalist, I quit the racket altogether, believing that I'd be spending the rest of my days writing the great American novel. I didn't save any of my advance, but instead bought a house I couldn't afford while the rest of the money burned up in a costly divorce. When the first couple of books in the big deal didn't come close to earning out that huge advance, I was politely shown the door.
"Hey, that's showbiz, kid!"
I was left with no future publishing prospects, no journalism gigs, and even the new marriage I'd entered into had gone belly up.
Ten years ago, I sat all alone in my apartment and wondered if the Gods were trying to tell me something. That maybe I didn't have what it took to make it as writer. I knew I could continue sitting there feeling sorry for myself, or I could grow up a little, go the opposite direction and make the slow, arduous, long climb out of the pit I'd dug for myself.
|The newest novel...|
I started out by doing something positive. I quit smoking.
I also started putting feelers out for new freelance journalism gigs. They started coming in at a trickle, but within a relatively short time, I was building up a new portfolio. I also started writing fiction again. Short stories and a new novel. The novel that would become Moonlight Falls was written during this tumultuous period. No wonder my main character contemplates, attempts, and fails at suicide.
I also began a long series of travels which turned into my becoming a freelance photo-journalist for outfits like RT. I saw West Africa and toured the bush where little children from an orphanage held my hand and touched my skin because they didn't believe the milky whiteness could be real. I went to Moscow, Paris, London, Istanbul, Peru, the Amazon Basin, and Egypt as the smoke cleared on the Arab Spring. I began basing myself out of Florence, Italy, where I would spend months at a time writing for news services and working on new novels.
Soon, I contracted with a small press to publish Moonlight Falls. Then another small press would take on a new version of The Innocent now that I'd managed to get my rights back from Delacorte. That novel would go on to sell a few hundred thousand copies. Ironically, it would have made back the original $250,000 advance. More books were written and more published. Then something wonderful happened. Thomas & Mercer, Amazon Publishing's traditional publishing arm offered me my first major contract in years and years.
I was back.
Today, ten years later, I'm enjoying contracts with several publishers large and small. Plus I've begun my own label to publish my Chase Baker series and other smaller projects. I'm still writing some journalism. Not because I have to, but because I want to keep my foot in the door and what the hell, it keeps me sharp. My SPJ dues are paid up and I'm a member in good standing.
This year I will enjoy my best year ever as a writer.
What's the secret to turning your writing life around?
For a business that requires as much luck as it does work, a writer must develop a fortitude, a self-discipline, and a perseverance that is unmatched in any other endeavor. The more you work, the more luck you have.
The ebook revolution played a big role as well.
But, ebooks or not, for me there was no other choice in the matter. Like Hemingway said after the initial dismal critical and commercial failure of Across the River and Into the Trees (1950). "When they've knocked you down on your ass for the count of eight, you get up and let 'em have it." He counter attacked and won the Pulitzer Prize. I've counter attacked and haven't won the Pulitzer, but I am up for ITW's Best Paperback Original for 2015 with Moonlight Weeps. And that's something to be very proud of.
Ten years ago I was down and out...and in many ways, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
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