I was in my mid-thirties when I first started writing in earnest because I had to make a living. I was in a tiny town surrounded by other tiny towns in the Sierra. Most of us lived there because of the natural environment and unique culture of places off the grid of major highways. With degrees in African Studies, Anthropology and Archeology, I was perfectly unemployable there. So, I did what any naive college graduate would do – I started a newspaper.
This kickstarted my career as a writer because I had no money to hire reporters for my publication. I was writer, editor, layout artist, ad sales manager, and delivery driver. When, after five years of building goodwill and losing money like a Shibu Inu sheds fur, it was a natural move to seek work as a cub reporter at whatever publication would have me.
I found it easy to write for newspapers. I enjoyed the multi-faceted experience of reporting and felt an electric charge when faced with deadlines. Writing came naturally to me, and that inexplicable, onboard birthday gift carried me through decades of writing for a living. Never once experiencing that thing called writer's block.
I later leveraged that talent when other people were getting ready to claim earned retirement benefits that were (in my professional history) never offered to reporters in medium-sized markets. I started writing books. First as a self-published author and later serving as co-writer and ghostwriter for others.
My first book was based on an experience I'd had in middle school – being the target of bullying by the cool girls and their jock boyfriends. The mystery book was intended for readers in fifth and sixth grade before they hit their teen years and turned into snarky monsters who might tease and torture vulnerable kids. Since then, I've written and self-published eight books, with my most recent mystery novel, “The Song of Jackass Creek”, getting 160 reviews on Amazon for an average 4.5-star rating. That makes me happy.
Self-publishing and Indie publishing no longer carry the stigma they did just eight years ago when it was scorned and belittled. People assumed the writers were amateurs because they'd not been picked up by an agent or a major publishing house. In my case, I was a bit too old to be considered a viable prospect (like, how many books can she possibly have in her?). Of course, for those of us driven-by-nature to write, the consideration of making money with our books is irrelevant. Statistics make that clear. This year, it's estimated the vast majority of indie authors will earn less than $1000 a year. And this pitiful accounting includes the sale of eBooks on all the publishing platforms, including Amazon and Kindle.
There are many programs now to help indie authors popularize their books. They all cost money and seldom make money. But some do get books into the hands of readers and produce reviews that are the lifeblood of book sales. Still, revenues of less than $100 a month from the labor of writing and promoting are hardly an incentive to continue.
So, why bother? I admit I think about this when I'm possessed by a story and wondering “why am I doing this?” But I still forge ahead. My short story books are examples of this lack of self-control. For example, "Tiny Twisted Tales" is a collection of short stories that grabbed my imagination and just wouldn't let go. Unlike my Jackass mystery novel, which is cozy and gentle, these stories are more Hitchcock than Christie; Twilight Zone than Mayberry. It's about aggrieved women getting even for perceived injustices in calculating and deadly ways.
I remember that, years ago, I shared my first such story with a counselor whom I was briefly seeing to sort out some relationship problems. He'd read my tale, leaned back in his chair while making a little tent of his hands beneath his chin (I think they teach this Freudian pose in medical schools), and said, "Tell me, when did you first start thinking about killing men?" His reaction was doubly disturbing because I thought the story was wickedly funny. We parted ways.
But neither he nor pitiful sales of my books have stopped me. When a story grabs my imagination, I feel nearly compelled to write it. The psychic reward comes when I hear from readers or get another good review. So, this week I'm offering you a free story from Twisted Tales. It's about a very good woman who does everything right but, when her virtue isn't rewarded, tries a new approach. (Reader alert: It's a shade on the dark side and threaded with irony). You can download The Goody-Goody Girl Here, - it's free!
I encourage you to consider books by Indie writers. You’re usually able to sample sections of the book and assess the quality before you download. And, I guess I’ve shared this with you because I hear the whisper of another story, and I’m fighting the urge!
Check out my books on Amazon - And please let me know if you read any of my stories. Your feedback keeps me going!
Thanks so much for spending your valuable time with me and special gratitude to folks who write to me with their own tales and memories. I appreciate you all - you are another tangible gift of writing for enjoyment! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime!
Support this week’s Indie Authors:
Blackout - Detective Ava Locke Series by Clara Lewis - After a run-in with a crazed killer in her last case, Ava wakes up in a hospital bed with no memory of how and why she got there. With her memory gone, Ava only grows more afraid. Just 99 cents HERE.
Gobble Gobble by Rachel Woods - A holiday cozy murder mystery novel. With lots of clues and red herrings, it features plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing until the end! Only 99 cents HERE
And here are completely FREE Cozy Mysteries!