I have reached a Leap Moment™ in my life.
It’s a huge one. I quit my day job. My last day is April 30. As of May 1, I will be, once again, a full time writer.
I can say unequivocally that this is the scariest fucking thing I’ve ever done. Even scarier than the first time, because in that case, I had a decent selling book out in the world and a little cash padding due to the Penguin deal for the follow-up. This time, that is not the case. There is no book deal. There is no major cash cushion. There’s no plan B. There’s no safety net (There’s a little savings, but not a ton — I’m not entirely stupid, just a little crazy).
There is, however, a book series that I’ve poured my heart and soul into the past year and a half, and it’s taking off. As of right now, there are already three books in the Marlowe Kana series (eBook and Paperbacks for 1, 2 and 3), a soundtrack for volume 1, an audiobook in the works, and a statue of the main character, as well as some amazing art created by Meghan Hetrick. On deck: 6 more books (three this year, three next year), 8 more albums, 8 more audiobooks, and a line of action figures. That’s a LOT to do, and somehow I’ve been able to make it work part-time.
Those things have helped me open the door to putting together some newer, pretty big projects. I can’t talk specifics right now, but trust me… You won’t be able to stop me from talking about them when/if they happen. (More on that very soon, I assure you). But in order to actually do any of these bigger, amazing things, I have to dedicate my full attention to them. I have to stop giving 40-50 hours a week of my life to anyone else and focus on the work I can do for myself, to take me where I want to be.
So, as I said, I have reached a Leap Moment™.
Behind me on the high ground, I have a lot of co-workers I have grown to consider real friends, a solid reputation, a decent paycheck, some semblance of job security, and the knowledge that without this particular job, I never could have rebuilt my life after everything exploded in chaotic hellfire in 2013.
In front of me, hovering well out of reach from where I stand, is a brass ring. A literal lifelong dream of mine could be fulfilled if I can make it all work (I’m trying to be coy, but I’m sure you’ve already guessed that there’s a chance Marlowe Kana could be turned into some other form of media. What the fuck else could I be talking about? It’s not a sure thing, but it’s a chance worth taking). All it takes is building up as much momentum as I possibly can, springing headlong to the edge, and leaping with all my might.
Below me: no cash cushion. No safety net. No backup plan. Just the jagged, painful rocks at the bottom of a long fall.
That’s why I’ve decided not to make that brass ring my only plan. Yes, becoming a full time writer again is do-or-die. But I’m not going to have just one path. It’s just… I don’t know what those others are quite yet.
I’m 41, and have been through the wringer more than once. I’ve had several chances to fulfill dreams, and I can say with a gigantic smile on my face and a single tear in my eye that I’ve achieved them, and then lost them due to shit well beyond anyone’s reasonable ability to foresee failure. I won’t get too deep into that whole story. I think by now, I’ve wrung my tear-soaked “My life fell apart” story dry.
Very related, I’ve reached a point in my life where I feel it’s time to leave the safe little alcove I’ve built for myself in order to re-establish myself with writing for a living. It’s time to get back on the field and be my own boss, doing my own work, on my own time.
It’s going to be hard. I know this, because it was REALLY hard last time, and I had the benefit of some insulation.
I’m going to be thinking very deeply about my strategy once I leave the daytime gig, and I hope to have a solid income plan built. I think the things I’ve come up with so far are pretty decent, but I know there are gaps and I need to sort those out.
Being very transparent: I have sorted my life out to a point where I have lowered my cost of living to an extremely manageable place. I’ve paid off a lot of debt and built my life in a way that it costs me very little to be happy.
But I still need to eat, pay rent, provide for my dogs and cats, and generally earn an income. And that’s what I’m going to be thinking VERY hard on the next month.
I make about $200/month on sales of the Marlowe Kana books right now. Hardly enough to live on, but it’s a start. I self-promote everything, and don’t spend much on advertising. I just keep the site updated and try to keep readers happy with a steady pipeline of print and eBooks. But it’s not enough, not right now anyway. I’m thinking on how I can make my daily writing habit a daily income. And I’ve come up with some ideas.
First, blogging. It’s my bread and butter, and it gave me a career once before. But this time, it’ll be a bit different. I think I’m well past the days where I can be the daily center of my own work all the time, every day. It’s just not healthy. And frankly, it’s boring. There are so many goddamn YouTube and Instagram and Facebook “celebrities” who simply babble on and on about themselves and their thoughts and reactions to basic bullshit, most of it dialed up to 11 for effect because if they don’t, they get ignored.
We absolutely don’t need another talking head. Besides, these days, I’m just no good at it. One could argue based on some of my past pieces that I wasn’t really great at it then, either. I have lost whatever it was in me that made me have to chase down jerks on the internet and yell at them. Having gotten it very wrong a few times didn’t help.
Where I WAS good was in teaching people things. Teaching the internet how to win a fist fight, how to actually get a decent tattoo, how to get over a divorce, how to deal with depression… these pieces are the ones I think back on immediately when I’m asked about what I’ve been most proud of. My random bullshit espousal about topic du jour? Not so much.
So, that’ll be the focus on this blog, from this point forward: Teaching.
I’m going to open the doors to my writing process. I’m going to record a series teaching folks what I have learned in the process of writing Marlowe Kana, about how to write fiction, how to organize a novel, how to structure plot, how to build characters, how to write dialog… I may not be MasterClass talent, but I can certainly share what I’ve learned about something I’ve dedicated the last year and a half of my life to.
I also want to dive deeply into the work that had to be done post-divorce and life collapse. I used to run a newsletter for people who were going through difficult life times. I miss giving the help and advice I was able to share there, but with a day job and trying to write a novel series, there wasn’t much room for anything else. Now, I can get back to that series and open those doors again. It may be in a different format than the newsletter, but I will be getting back to it.
There are a number of other smaller writing projects I’ve just not had time to dive into, that I’d like to explore again. Short stories and some screenwriting things that were once on the horizon, that I can bring back out of the “Maybe Someday” file.
I’ll also be updating you on the progress on any Marlowe Kana related projects, because of course I will. I’ll be proud. I have to share.
Now, as for the money part… That’s still up in the air. I am still shy about things like Patreon and Kickstarter. I’ve only ever used Kickstarter once, for the very first Art of Akira Exhibit, and it went okay. But I’ve never liked the idea of asking for money up front for something I haven’t done yet. It makes me lazy and builds too much expectation for me to ever make anyone happy. Prospects like Patreon or Drip are somewhat less cringe-inducing, but everyone I know has one… I dunno. Still thinking on that stuff.
One thing I do feel pretty strongly about including is the communal aspect of writing, like I used to do on Mentally Incontinent, the blog-turned-book series that Penguin bought. I wrote 5-6 stories about my life at a time, and then the community voted on the one that should be a chapter in the next book. Clearly that idea’s been done, and also I think it just doesn’t work for anything I’m doing right now.
So, I’m considering opening up the Google Docs access for every piece I write to subscribers and letting them see how I do what I do. It might be boring. It might be fascinating in a weird voyeuristic way. It might help someone else who is writing things get through a block or something. I have no idea. I just know I miss the community and collaboration aspects of what the internet used to be, and I’m going to be actively looking for ways to bring it back to my work.
So, there’s that.
(Also, I’m back. Hi.)