So, here we are again.
Looking back at another year past, summing up the highlights and the accomplishments, I feel a mixture of gratitude and disappointment, as I often do. I don’t feel like I accomplished a lot, but the things that I did were fairly notable.
I only had one short story published in 2016, but it was a Felix Renn story, and I haven’t had one of those out in a while. The story was called “Eyes Like Poisoned Wells” and it appeared in the first double-sized issue of Cemetery Dance magazine, which gave Felix and the Black Lands a nice little boost of publicity, and reminded me how much I like writing about that dark, creepy world. (I really do have to finish that Felix novel one of these days…)
Two things happened in 2016 that were pretty exciting. First, I finished a novel called The Underwood. Without spoiling the story, I’ll say it’s a book that builds on the themes and ideas explored in my collection Every House Is Haunted. The two books are separate entities with no connection to each other, but I feel The Underwood is the next logical step in my career as a writer.
The second thing was the news that my story, “The House on Ashley Avenue,” which has been optioned these past couple of years by Universal Cable Productions, is now in development as a TV series for NBC. A couple of writers are currently working on the pilot, and if the show is picked up, I’ll be working on it as a co-producer (and writing an episode, too!).
It’s all very exciting, but still far from a done deal. I’m doing my best to enjoy the ride as long as it lasts, reminding myself that even if the show fails to materialize, that I still got a hell of a lot further than most writers ever do in the Hollywood game.
I think I’m okay with that because I never dreamed of making it big with a career in movies and television. Mostly I look at it as a means to an end. I think of the money as a way to subsidize a career writing books, which is a hard thing to do from publishing alone. And if the TV people want me involved in the show, then great. If not, that’s okay, too.
Speaking of books, I spent the first few months of 2016 writing The Underwood. I started in November of 2015, and I wrote every day, finishing the 120k-word beast in March. I didn’t miss a day, and I was proud of that, but the end result was that I burned myself out for a while, and I wasn’t able to get back to the next draft for several months. It took a long time, but eventually, armed with some helpful notes from my agent, I was able to get back to it, and the next draft should be done in the next few weeks.
There have been dark days with the book. Times when I’ve looked at the thing and felt I wrote it too fast, or that the idea simply wasn’t as good as I thought it was. Doubt is a normal part of writing, but that doesn’t make it any less easier to deal with. Sometimes the doubts seem to pile up so high I can’t see anything else. All I can do is keep my chin up and do my best, and hope that it’s good enough in the end.
This is the process, and although I may be biased I feel that writing requires the most discipline and the most courage of the creative arts. Because it doesn’t matter if you’re Stephen King or a relative nobody like myself, a writer works alone. There may be encouragement from friends, family, and other writers, but in the end they can’t help you with the work. Sometimes writing feels like Fitzgerald’s dark night of the soul, where it’s three o’clock in the morning day after day. That sounds melodramatic as hell, but any writer who has made a serious run for the brass ring knows it’s true. Writing is often hard, lonely work. You have to really love it — and really believe in yourself — to keep going, and it’s perfectly normal to constantly ask yourself, Am I a fool? Am I deluding myself?
Maybe I am, but the fact is, I enjoy writing, I enjoy telling stories, and I figure as long as the enjoyment outweighs the doubt, then it’s still worth doing. The support of my wife, my friends, and the many writers I know help me on the days when I can’t help myself. Like most things in life, it’s about balance, and I couldn’t do it without them. The people that keep me from falling over. The people that help pick me up when I do.
Thank you all.
See you on the flip-flop.