I have done nearly everything in my writing career my way. I ignored the advice of good friends and more successful writers. I thought that I could carve my own way. I wasn't interested in learning the rules, only how to break them.
I was dumb enough to think that I could count on stupid luck to bring a well known agent, or publisher, knocking on my door. It never happened. I had some success doing things my way, but it had a lot to do with the people I worked with.
My short stories were published in lit mags, horror zines, and several collections, but the first major success came with Forrest J Ackerman's Anthology of the Living Dead. I was lucky enough to work with some very cool people, including the legendary Forrest J Ackerman. Ackerman's attachment to the book brought talent and attention to the book. The zombie anthology would go on be published through Nicholas Grabowski's Black Bed Sheet Books. The book did incredible at bookstore signings and conventions, but most of the contributing authors were unhappy about the way the publisher handled the book and royalties.
The next book I worked on was my own collection, Eclectic Collection. This book did very well for me, and is still touted by many of my readers as the best thing I've done. Eclectic Collection was mostly horror, flash fiction, and noir mashups. The book had an eye catching Joel Robinson cover and it sold hundreds of copies.
I didn't have anywhere near the same sales with my next collection, Happy Hour Blues. It sold just over one hundred copies, allowing me the time to work on other anthologies. Like the zombie anthology, I served as an editor and contributing author on Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction and Quixotic: Not Everyday Love Stories, but after working on these books I was ready to focus on screenwriting.
I wrote several shorts films that were never made, and one feature film, TERMS, that may never see screen life. My TERMS script was rewritten, and the project slowed to a painful halt, leaving me feeling bored and unfulfilled.
After the lackluster TERMS experience, I turned my attention to my novel, Mr. Bad Example. I had written the book I wanted to read, and the people I trust most told me that it was my best work yet. I was very happy with the early sales, but interest in the book died off quickly.
Mr. Bad Example never even sold one hundred copies online. I moved a lot of copies at the release party, and a few signings, but I wasn't able to take it on the road the way I had my previous books. This made the sales for my novel the worst of anything I had worked on.
The poor sales of Mr. Bad Example lead to me turning my attention to TV screenwriting full time. I poured everything I had into landing a TV writing job. My main focus was Nickelodeon, with dreams of writing for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I thought that my script was a sure thing. It is still something I'm very proud of, but it wasn't cool enough to get my foot in the door at Nick.
I took the Nickelodeon rejection very hard. I stopped writing for a while. I messed with short stories here and there, but I didn't feel the fire I had before the disappointments of my first novel and the TV script situation.
Nothing clicked for me until I started working on the book that would become Hell Awaits. I worked on it for a long time, but I wasn't putting my best work on the pages. I was only writing a story that amused me. It wasn't uncommon for me to work on Hell Awaits and a bottle of wine at the same time. It was all fun and games, until I went to get the book ready to print. I quickly learned that it was an incoherent train wreck.
Currently, my plans to release Hell Awaits have hit a wall. I am not happy with it in any capacity. I find the story to be a brutal clash of two separate stories, and many of the ideas have already been done before.
This makes 2015 the second year in a row that I will not be releasing a book.
Where do I go from here?
I'm going back to square one. I have been submitting short stories to various publications, and adding to my collection of rejections. The goal is to figure out what I'm doing wrong and get back on track. I'm even taking an online writing class.
This might mean nothing to everyone else, but to me it's a chance to start over. I have always had an interest in crime fiction. I've written several mystery and crime stories, even being named as a runner up in an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine contest. Many people closest to me have told me that I should focus on this, and write the crime novel I want to read.
I don't know if that is going to happen. All I know is that I am taking my time to read, learn, hone my skills as a storyteller, and as a writer. We will see what happens from there, but it's time for a change.
The only thing I can promise is that when I sort it all out, I'm coming back in a big way.