Before I get into this, let’s have some news. I’ll be at Gain Xp next weekend here in Colorado! I’ll have a table where my wife and I will peddling both When the Man Comes Around, and my latest book “Some A**hole in Pajamas Talks about Writing”, and we’re working out a way for folks to buy books when we run out (we’ve only got a handful of physical copies) or pick up the other titles in my bibliography if they like! I’ll also be giving panels on world-building, and my tricks for storytelling for interactive tabletop RPG games. It’s going to be a rad weekend, and I hope you come on down and say hello!
And now, today’s article. I had fully planned to release a new article on a different way I found for outlining multiple character viewpoint stories this Friday. One day, I’ll still put that together for my fellow geeks, because I think it will help some folks out there. But last night was the punctuation on something I’ve been struggling with over the last month, and as it’s dictating what I’m working on going forward, I feel the need to talk about it.
Will it be helpful to someone out there? Maybe. But honestly I just hope it clears things up, and that my readers will understand why I’m making the choice that is shaking things up like this. First, I want to share with you all a quote from my wife that struck a chord with me during our talks last night:
“It’s like drawing a character again that you created with a friend, and that friend passed away.”
I’ll come back to that, but for now just let that comment make itself comfortable in your brain-case. I certainly did. But for now let’s face the matter at hand. What was the choice I made? Simply put, I am shelving my steampunk-fantasy world of Calopa for now. I’ve stopped work on The Shattered Clock, and while all of my books from that series will remain available, readers should not expect any new material from that world anytime soon.
Bear with me. I need to set the stage.
Coldbrew Publishing was absolutely Katy’s brainchild. The idea that we could create a new house aimed at helping not only local authors, but also aid talented writers we know get their stories out there. I coined the name and packaging, but the core concept is completely hers. My only caveat with this new enterprise was that my work would serve as the litmus test. If we could not successfully push my work to the point where it turned a profit for the company, then we could not in fairness have hopeful writers come on board. My work would be the proving ground, and hopefully give us the means to actually offer other creators more than just our logo on their books.
Before you worry, we’re getting there. Things take time to build, but I’m actually pleased with the progress so far. Moving on.
But this also puts me in the position of writing content to bolster the company as a whole. That’s cool. That’s a box I can work in even as I think outside its boundaries. It does mean though that I’m creating for a market that doesn’t totally exist just yet, at least outside traditional genre-driven demographics. Those aren’t going anywhere. What I mean here is that I’ve got to focus on the projects that will give us the best chance to get to the point where we can open the doors to others.
The mindset is logical, and can be charitably called mercenary, but it proves out. On sales numbers alone, I know that both When the Man Comes Around, and my new book on writing, outsold my first Calopa novel by a wide margin. I know logically that the follow up book needs to capitalize on that momentum, and that my largest work, Swordwaltzer, is still waiting in the wings. As pure fantasy with my own spin, it too stands the best chance of doing very well.
But Calopa isn’t in that same category. I love that world, and I love the stories I can make of it, but it’s not what’s needed. That brings me from the logical view to the emotional one, and it’s what really kicked off the discussion with my wife.
Remember that quote from Katy I mentioned earlier? This is why she phrased it that way.
While creating the world of Calopa and releasing Rhyme was a period of love and energy, what came next was one of the worst periods of my career. There were rejections, a dangled carrot from one notable publisher that got yanked away last minute, and the crushing experience of trying to promote it on my own without anything resembling a budget.
There were long days of depression as aided by the rocket-fuel that is anxiety. There were so many false starts as I scrambled to make this project fly on its own strength. And through it all self-doubt was like waves coming in off the rising tide. To make a long story short, the post-production period of Rhyme was a nightmare that never absolutely left me.
And that lead to book 2 of the Archetype Trilogy: The Shattered Clock. I’ve reworked the main outline eleven times. I’ve written and re-written passages and entire chapters so much that it feels like the wheels are freely spinning in place. In the past month, I’ve avoided, I’ve procrastinated, and I’ve barely picked at the material. I realized fully this week that working on it was bringing up those old memories and experiences, and I was spiraling out of energized creativity and down the vortex of depression that would rob me of time and the desire to work at all.
I’m in a better place, but I’m still not living and paying bills purely off my work. My Patreon makes less than a hundred dollars a month. I’ve not found myself in the position of hitting cons more than once a year yet. And here I was, working on a book whose pedigree was one of financial failure, even though a lot of love remains.
That left me with one inescapable realization: Logically, Calopa’s not right for the company right now. But more importantly, I’m not at a place where I can write in that world without feeling that burden on my shoulders. That, in turn, would sour the work, and Calopa deserves my best.
When will I come back to it? I honestly don’t know. I like to think that if fortune favors us, the company and my work will do well, and I can revisit the material from a place where I’m not stressing over the day-to-day laundry list of necessities. I’d personally love that; it’s free creating without baggage.
Maybe one day.
For now, I’m resuming work on the follow-up to When the Man Comes Around, laying the groundwork for Swordwaltzer and my short story-collection, and prepping for this convention. I suppose if there is any lesson to take away from all this that you can apply to your own creative work, it’s this:
Know when to walk away from something so you can keep creating at your best.
Until next time, Horns Up.