Thursday, July 7, 2011


Last month I was asked to write a post for my friend Heather. She was doing a list of her favorite not-so-famous authors in a list of writers from A-Z on her blog Proud Book Nerd. I was happy to do it, but now that it has been a while, and because I am lazy, I thought I would share that post here. At least this way I will know where a copy of it is. Check out Heather’s site and her great list of authors you might not have heard of (yet.) And now the post…

Although I still suffer from chronic depression, I don’t hear the voices anymore. This is what a man actually said to me at one of my first book signings. He stopped, turned over one of my books, nodded, and then gave me this gift—the first line for a book I hope to one day write.

I collect first lines, sentences that people throw away not realizing their worth. Once while driving my son and his friends home from a trip to the video game store, one of the kids in the back seat said, “I’m the world’s most unluckiest person; whenever I throw something in the trash, I miss.” I kept repeating that in my head until I could find pen and paper. For a writer it’s like finding a twenty on the sidewalk.

Lately it feels more like I’m becoming a hoarder. I’m a fantasy writer and these sentences lend themselves more to literary fiction, or clever short stories filled with porch swings, estranged brothers, and the ghost of a childhood dog or perhaps a goldfish. I don’t do much of that. I write about sword swings, strange brotherhoods, and ghosts of wizards or perhaps a goldfish. When you think about it ghostly goldfish are just one of those things that work anywhere.

The point is that I keep these things in files and notebooks but never use them. I take them out occasionally. I look at them like jewelry and try them on the way a widow might while thumbing through photo albums with yellowed pages. They are the keys to a car I don’t drive anymore. It lies under a tarp in the garage and quite frankly, I’m not even sure it will even start. Still, I remember the way it used to roar once upon a time, and how it ate the open road. And the road was open back then, back before I was published.

I’m not lamenting getting published, that’s like cursing about dying and going up instead of down—but it does close doors. They aren’t locked. I could force a few open if I worked really hard, but that’s the thing. After struggling for decades to get to the mountain, it’s hard to even think of hiking another. But you see, I never intended to be a fantasy author. I guess I never intended to be any kind of author. I never knew there was a choice. I assumed it was more like a buffet and you could go up for seconds and thirds. The first trip is really just to taste stuff anyway, to see what you’ll load up on the second trip. Only it doesn’t work that way. Once you leave the runway and the landing gear is up there isn’t much going back. I established a fan base of people who like what I wrote—not what I might want to write. After forcing them to develop a taste for light-hearted adventure, I expect they will be peeved if my next novel is about the tormented mind of a serial killer driven crazy in contemporary Detroit. Maybe he’s the one with the ghostly goldfish—a fishy Caesar, who decides who dies like a less humorous, less corporal, Audrey II.  

Instead I need to play to the audience I made. I entered into a contract with them, a contract I didn’t know about until after I signed. I mean honestly, who knew that when I was bored one day and started writing a nutty, medieval, six-act opera about a self-serving thief and an idealistic soldier that it would be the one. I wasn’t even taking it seriously. I didn’t care. I had written dozens of books and even more unfinished beginnings that went nowhere. This was no different. But it was, and now I look back across the piles of science fiction, horror, mysteries, and coming of age tales, and I take out my first sentence jewels and put them on. I glance at myself in the mirror and wonder what might have been.

Back in the drawer they go, and the albums fold and slide away. Like I said I don’t regret being published, but it closes doors that once were open; doors through which blew exotic breezes. Winds from distant lands where I will never venture and over seas I shall never sail.

Although I still suffer from chronic depression, I don’t hear the voices anymore.

My problem is that I still hear the voices.    



  1. I do this you cant collect the things I say or steal, they are MINE.

  2. Weren't you once a "hobby" writer? You had to make time away from your day job and life to make time to write? Now you can sneak time to write your psycho-thriller :) You've done it before. This way it'll be more fun!

  3. I was once a hobby writer, back when I really didn't have a life. I should write a really whiny post about how awful my life as successful published author is because I have so many obligations now. Only no one would believe me, and my wife and Jamie Rubin would slap me around. (They both work very hard. Compared to them, I live on eternal vacation.) When you achieve your dream, you forfeit your right to complain about life.

    Actually my problem would be that I can't work on two books at once. Others can, but my brain just can't hold that much active data at one time. I also have a rule that once I start a book I can't start another writing project until it is finished. That way leads to the dark side.

    Thanks for the advice though. Psycho-thriller, huh? Hummm.

  4. I'd read about the tormented mind of a serial killer. But of course I'm a book whore, I'll read just about anything.

    If you like it, if it meshes with your internal structure, makes sense and tickles your fancy I bet we'll all enjoy it too. Even if it is different.

    Gotta take a chance to keep growing. I officially release you from the contract be FREE! :D

    Although keep in mind you shouldn't take advice from random strangers on the internet.

  5. Thank you for picking that lock for me Laotong Chick. And I would only have been concerned if you had offered me candy and a ride.

  6. I would believe you. I follow a lot of author blogs and all the non-writing obligations you all talk about would exhaust me and suck the life out of me LOL Yay for the Mrs and Jamie Rubin!

    Hmmm, maybe I should try the 1 Book at a Time rule. Maybe then I'd finish something some day. :)

  7. Everyone has to find something that works. Jamie has a tight schedule that he manages to stick to. My wife just doesn't sleep.

    So Darci, all you need do to be certain of succeeding is stick to one project, create and adhere to a schedule, and give up sleeping. It's as easy as that. :)

  8. I heard a line a while ago, and for some reason it really affected me; it stuck, and isn't going away. I don't think I could ever really write with it, however for some reason it just resonated with me. It was something to the effect of:

    "It had been three days and he was about ready to cut his own finger off and smoke it."

    I'm not a smoker, but I felt the desperation and frustration with trying to quit immediately. Maybe I'll just need to lock it up in my own proverbial jewelry box.