Essay–2014 Birthday Thoughts
I am a very fortunate man. And yet I know some of that fortune is from hard work and the will to struggle. And life is a struggle. Period.
I started writing again in 2008 after leaving the craft for 15 years. That long sojourn was brought about through frustration and the knowledge I’d not only ever be published, but I’d never be skilled enough to warrant the same.
Pessimistic, I know. But that’s what happens when someone, an agent to be precise, lies about believing in your dreams while they are merely attempting to rook you out of cash.
The tiny victories I’d celebrated during high school and college, including a short story grant from Colorado State University, meant little to nothing in the face of non-academic pursuits. The reality was that I was a terrible writer and should just drop the dream.
Or was it? I don’t know. For many years, I looked back upon those old stories (some of which helped catapult me into podcast success) with trepidation, embarrassment, and a sense of longing. I wanted to feel that rush again of characters speaking through my fingers, of creating, nurturing, and perfecting. So I brought that passion into the realm of software development.
Without a computer science degree and no formal training, I managed to somehow wiggle my way into the world of programming. During the .com boom, it wasn’t all that difficult, but I’m still amazed I managed to do it. And I was good. Not great. But good. And good enough to continue pursuing it as a well-paying career.
But like the agent that screwed me over when I was 24, backstabbing executives, corporate politics, and the incessant need to screw over others, drove me from technology. I couldn’t create for people that simply used my skills to further their own careers on the backs of their underlings. No more. No. Fucking. More.
So I once again took a sabbatical. I dove into writing, treating it as more than a hobby. I tried again to somehow get published. And failed again. I podcasted. I networked. I wrote and went broke. Then it was time to join reality again so I could pay some bills.
I got another shitty job that I hated. It was for a lot less money and a lot more work. Late nights. Hostile work environment. The typical life of a system admin. But during that ridiculously virulent experience, I managed to write. I published. And slowly, very slowly, progress unfolded.
When I finally realized I couldn’t stand working for that company anymore, I broke. I flat out lost it. Nothing I brought from 16 years of enterprise software development meant anything. So I finally went somewhere else where it supposedly did.
Better work environment. Better pay. Better people. I felt at home. For a time. I co-wrote The Rider with Scott Sigler (due out in 2015). I finished Garaaga’s Children and published it. I wrote The Street because my patrons wanted it. And then something very strange happened.
While once again being plunged into the frustration of corporate politics and technological idiocy, I found a publisher. Not for my old works, but for new ones outside my series. Unlike the previous publishing contracts I’d turned down, this one had no gotchas and didn’t infringe upon my rights or dreams.
The Black was born and it has finally put me on the map more so than I’d dared dream when I started writing again. Another book in that series is coming and I hope to have the release party for it at Balticon in May. And perhaps another release party for Flames. I can dream still, can’t I?
I left the job that so frustrated me for a new one. I’m still in the honeymoon phase with this company, but thus far, we speak the same language. They encourage outside interests. Encourage new technologies and improvement upon what they have, rather than fear it.
All this time, while all this was going on, I had patrons that have kept me writing. Their passion and love for my tales made me keep creating when I felt like giving up. When The Black made it onto Amazon’s charts shortly after publication, it was validation for all those that believed in me. Including myself.
That was 2014, kids. With all the crazy, all the productivity, all the joy and triumph, tempered by the many tragedies that occurred around me, 2014 was one of those years that will stay in my memory long after I’ve faded into obscurity and the inevitable grip of old age.
I can make 2015 better. I will write more books. Better stories. Celebrate every day as if it’s my last, even as age takes its terrible toll on my loved ones and myself. I can’t say what will happen next year, only that I’ll keep going. And hopefully, on December 22nd 2015, at the ripe young age of 45, I’ll be writing a similar missive. It’s something I look forward to.
Happy Holidays. Be safe. Be healthy. And we’ll talk again real soon.