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It's the first day of the new year. Let's chat.


Another year has come and gone. It's crazy to think about sometimes, but it's also extremely exciting. First, a retrospective.


I published my firs book Fall Winds Blow in 2019, on a whim. I've told this story a lot, but I'll tell it again. My job at the time was incredibly slow and boring, and the amount of free time I had was egregious. After browsing the internet for as long as I could - easily months - I remembered that I'd used to love reading and decided to dive back in. There were a few new Stephen king novels out at the time that I had an interest in, so I took the plunge. I binged The Outsider and11/22/63 in a little under two weeks. I also grabbed Andromeda Strain and Sphere from Michael Crichton, another author that I enjoy. With all of those freshly rolling around in my head, I remembered that I'd also always wanted to write. My fascination with true crime and serial killers has always been a thing (nowadays it seems less taboo, but still sounds weird saying it) and in thinking back to Silence of the Lambs and the TV show Hannibal, I realized that I wanted to read a story that followed the serial killer as the main character. A novel version of Dexter, almost. I did a quick search and couldn't find anything that fit exactly what I wanted. After talking to a friend, they suggested - in most likely a sarcastic way - that I should just write it myself. So I set off to do just that. It would give me something to do to pass the time, if nothing else.


Three months later, I had a story of around 30,000 words that had developed into something much more than I'd ever expected. I'd started with a small short story, but after letting said inspirational friend read that and having them egg me on to continue it, it blossomed into a full fledged thing. Most importantly, they liked it. They thought it was good. That was the validation I needed. Now, I needed to do something with it. I'd spent this time and energy into crafting this thing, why not? I remembered a client at work that had a published book, and how we'd all thought that was the coolest thing. To know a writer? What could be better? So I went digging into what it took. It wasn't a full length novel, and I'm nothing if not a self-proclaimed instant gratification seeker, and I definitely wasn't going to spend another year rewriting and expanding it. (Sometimes I think about going back to do it now, but alas.) So I found reedsy.com which allows for free manuscript formatting for publication, canva.com for my attempts at designing a cover, and Amazon KDP to get it out to the world. Around two months after completing the story, I was pushing the publish button on Amazon.


I'd done it. My dream of being a writer was complete.


Little did I know that it was something of a drug. And it was highly addictive.


Reviews and feedback started coming in, and even more people were enjoying it. Friends and family mostly, but the occasional random person that I wasn't close to would ask to read it and come back with praise as well. The more I heard back, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to make this thing legit. With Fall Winds only being a novella, I felt like I'd skimped in some way. I'd taken a shortcut. I still wasn't a real author until I put out a full length novel. I needed something with a plan.


So I got to work on figuring out what it meant to be a real author.


I'd always struggled with mental illness - depression mainly - and I wanted to do something that explored that. I also loved the stories from Stephen King that took normal people and gave them powers of some kind. Why not combine those into a story?


Psyconics was born.


Now, a few things happened all at once around the time I started trying to write Psyconics. First, my roommates at the time had decided to go their separate ways, leaving me to find a place of my own for the first time in my life. This caused the need for progression at my job, mostly to make more money to afford said place of my own. I spent time saving, and plotting, and trying to come up with enough depth for a full novel, while also stressing about moving and fending for myself. At the end of 2019, I found a place. One job done. Now, I could focus on writing, and if Fall Winds was anything to go off, it would be done before I knew it. Sure, it was a longer story, but if 30k took three weeks, 60k couldn't be that hard.


Spoiler alert, it was hard.


There were other things that affected it as well, though. First, the new position at work took A LOT more energy and time than the previous position. So instead of spending 90% of my day at work writing the story, I had to find time outside of work. No big deal, that should be easy. Except after work is no good because my brain is completely exhausted. Before work seemed better, but I was a night owl still, so waking up with time to do something in the morning was rough. It was slow going for a while.


Then, April 2020 happened. The world stopped. Lockdown.


Now we're all working from home, trying our best to deal with this mess that everyone is in together, and I'm trying to write a novel. In my small, one bedroom apartment, I spend all my time in front of the computer, why would I want to spend free time there as well working on the story? Everything sucked. So I sat dormant for easily 6 months, not touching a word. I came close to giving up. People would ask how the novel was going, and I'd have excuses that I was working on the plot, or reworking a chapter here or there, but progress was incredibly slow. Toward the end of the year, I bought a laptop in an attempt to separate the writing computer and the work/fun computer, which helped. I bought a new desk and turned the old one into the writing desk. I bought a white/corkboard to track ideas and keep goals. I dabbled with short stories when I was feeling stuck. I expanded my thought of what being a writer really meant, making accounts on Vocal and Medium and looking into submitting short stories to magazines. Nothing ever came of any of that, but it kept the passion alive at least. I also continued to read (mostly craft books with the occasional novel here and there). Toward the end of 2020 and into 2021, I was feeling more ready to take on the task of plowing through the novel.


Then we went back to work and I could separate my time again. I started writing in the mornings before work with more regularity, I started brainstorming more. I came up with a solid plan forward. I wanted each book to be better than the last. The goal was going to grow as I went, and share the experience with readers if they wanted to follow along. By mid year 2021, I was done and pressing publish on my first full length novel. I'd even bought a professional cover. Psyconics was out for the people.


Again, reviews started rolling in and people seemed to enjoy it as well. I had a few friends that weren't "into reading" that gave it a shot and liked it. I spent some money on ads and got a few complete strangers to give it a shot. I spend energy on marketing it, and it did better than Fall Winds ever had. It wasn't a bestseller by any means, but it was an improvement, and that's all I could ask for.


The second hit of the self-publishing drug is the one that hooks you, I think.


Knowing that I could write a full novel, I'd passed the test I'd set for myself. NOW, I was a real author. So I decided I'd follow that dream.


For the rest of 2021 and the start of 2022, I researched marketing and how to be a "successful" indie author. If this was the path, I wanted to follow it as best I could. 2022 became the year of research. I looked into all the things that I needed to learn to navigate social media as best I could. I read up on self-publishing tips and tricks and software and everything I could think of. I also took a break from writing a bit but still had some ideas wobbling around in my brain. Toward the end of 2022, I needed to move. My commute to work was terrible, the apartment itself wasn't much better, and a change of scenery was definitely needed. I'd started on a new book, and it was slowly coming together. The original idea had morphed, and I was discovering a different idea that was even more interesting to me. What if a man developed A.I. and what if a cult developed a belief that it was basically God?


Then I moved. The new apartment was so much nicer, it had a balcony so I could see outside, and have actual sunlight in the mornings, which made it much easier to want to get up and work on the story. A few months after the move, The Path of the Divine Order was finished. I went through the same cover artist I'd used on Psyconics (miblart.com) but this time I even hired a beta reader and proofreader from Fiverr to make it that much more "polished". I'd researched the best times to release a novel, put the finishing touches on it, and dropped it out to the world as well.


Again, it wasn't a national success by any means, but the reviews came faster, in greater numbers, and were still overall positive about the experience. Again, it was better than the last, and that was the goal.


I also decided that 2023 would be the year of starting the internet presence. I created a website (hey that's where you are now!) and jumped on every social media bandwagon I could. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Threads and TikTok came later. I was watching Twitch streams at the time, and rebranded that account. I changed my Discord name. Everything was focused on making the public persona the writing life. I ran more Facebook ads, did what I could to increase my follower counts, and joined so writing communities.


I'm still not good at social media by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm less scared of it than I was before.


I also decided 2023 was going to be the year of focus on writing. If I wanted to become successful, I needed a somewhat steady release schedule. I needed to keep the fact that I write books out in the minds of the people that enjoy reading them. I wouldn't be able to do what most indie authors do and publish a book every three months, I knew that. So I settled for once a year, and got back to work on the new idea. What if a sadistic monster heard the voice of God telling him to do terrible things, a detective with ties to the area had to chase him, and what if it took place in the bayous of Louisiana?


If you haven't seen True Detective season 1, I URGE you to check it out.


I'd developed a solid writing habit (1000 words a day as a goal, more or less is fine as long as progress is made) and in three months after publishing Path, I was done with the first draft of Bound to Parish. It felt good to make progress quickly again, to have a plan, and be ahead of schedule.


Then the self-edit that I always do came around. I talked to some friends at work, ran through some ideas that I didn't think were working, and a few major holes came up. I already knew I needed to rework the antagonist because I hadn't discovered his motivation until near the end of the draft, and along with that I needed to change some of the locations to better match the setting. A major rewrite was in order. But it was June, I could power through it and still be done in time for Thanksgiving.


Except, as things are want to do, curveballs came from every direction. Work became incredibly stressful, the new apartment (specifically the upstairs neighbors) was grating on me, and overall I felt stuck trying to rewrite a story that I already really enjoyed. Due dates got missed, pushed back, and missed again. I was losing the thread.


But again, I needed to make this story better than the last, so I connected with a developmental editor (revisionmuse.com) in an attempt to give me some motivation to get it done. And it means that this will most likely be the most polished book to date.


After struggling through the holidays, I finished the draft about two weeks ago. I finished the self-edit pass for typos and terrible sentences this week.


And now it's 2024. This morning, I reached out to confirm the editor and provide a final word count. We're scheduled for Jan. 8th as a start, so it'll be off to her soon. Then comes revisions, cover art, and once again pressing the Publish button. I have high expectations for this one, and I hope you all do too.


If you've read this rambling post all the way, I hope you had a wonderful New Year! I hope that this is the year that everything comes together for you, and all the pieces fall in place to let you live your dream. That's what I'm hoping for myself at least.


Be on the lookout for Bound to Parish coming later this year. I'm estimating March-April if I'm lucky, but it may be more toward the summer. Either way, if you want to read a suspenseful crime drama that takes place on the bayous of Louisiana, I'd recommend it.


Until then, keep living your dreams.

-Dave

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