Well, this is kind of a big one, so there’s no point in beating around the bush.
As of today, I’m no longer actively pursuing writing as a career.
Okay, let me amend that statement: I’m no longer pursuing writing speculative fiction novels as my main source of income. I’ll try to keep it brief, but as I’m effectively pumping the breaks on half a decade and change of my life, you’ll have to forgive me if it reads a bit long.
Back in 2013, I threw myself full-tilt at novel creation, and within a short time I was doing so completely on my own dime as a self-published author. I worked my ass off to get my work in front of other people, to engage them, and I’m pleased to say in that I had some success. The other side of that coin was to build something up to the point where I could pay bills off of that hard work.
Yeah … that didn’t go so hot.
There’s all sorts of reasons, and I certainly struggled with work-arounds in the meantime. I even jumped in on my wife’s plan for creating a publishing company that would aid local writers, using all of the knowledge I had learned in both traditional publishing and indie/self-pub. My only caveat was that my own work would be the litmus test. If we couldn’t make it click with mine, then it wasn’t fair to get any other creative’s hopes up.
Cue the cut in this film to about a month ago. That’s when I started telling people about the custom tabletop gear that I was planning to make on the side. When I officially launched Haunted Mountain, the response was immediate. Shares, likes, comments, and I filled over half of the commission slots I had set aside for the following month in a single day.
The Haunted Mountain Instagram jumped to more follows than my personal account and Coldbrew combined in under a week. People were honestly digging what I was turning out, and the work itself was invigorating. we’re already lining up meets to get our stuff into local gaming shops. That’s crazy, and so exciting! During my talk with Katy last night, she said it best: “This is the first time I’ve seen you this invested in something in almost a decade.”
She’s not wrong. It’s also the first time in what feels like forever that I was making something that could grow into a form that would give me that humble little dream of just being able to live based off my effort.
By comparison—and people sometimes forget we’ve got nifty tools to be able to look at the numbers behind the scenes on this stuff—everything else I was working hard on was … well, sucking is the only word that really fits here. My blog posts? I was lucky if they managed ten views a week. The Coldbrew Story Fridays? Petered out to single-digit engagement. My Patreon offerings of WIP chapters, e-books, etc.? They would get one person reacting, when they got any notice at all.
This all built to a head, and as usual I turned to my best friend and confident, Katy. As I looked at non-existent book sales since our last con, and the fact that I was typing up yet another FB post effectively begging friends who had bought a book to rate/review it, a quote concerning Firefly’s struggles after cancellation popped into my head:
“At what point does this stop being CPR, and start being necrophilia?”
And here’s the thing: Social media algorithms eat posts without payment up front. People are busy in their lives. Some people just don’t read anymore. But no matter how I looked at it, it really boiled down to one of two conclusions: Either we couldn’t muster the funds to make this writing gig work, or the work itself just wasn’t good enough for people to want to engage and share.
I’m not going too deeply into either, because one involved mathematics that I refuse to entertain this early in the morning, and the other is just a shame spiral that Depression feeds upon like a Chinese buffet.
But it amounts to much the same cold truth. if I couldn’t get those who knew me excited for my writing, then I couldn’t fairly expect strangers to. worse, I could not fathom a scenario where I could offer another hopeful writer anything of worth by turning their work over to Coldbrew.
I simply looked up from my phone, where I noted that there were others interested in the stuff I was making for Haunted Mountain, looked Katy in her eyes, and said “I’m tired.”
And that really sums it up. I’m tired of that slog, and five years of spinning wheels, rejections, and crickets is a hell of a slog for someone like me who has so much still that I want to do and contribute to not only the life I’ve made with my wife, but for myself.
As I wrote that last bit, I just got a message from someone interested in the dice trays I’ve been creating. I mean, seriously.
So, am I stopping writing altogether? Not on your life. I am damn proud of the books I had put out. What’s more, though Coldbrew’s gone, the books aren’t. They’ll be up on Lulu for the curious. Hell, I still plan to work on these stories in my spare time. And that’s the key term, spare time. It’s best left at this point to the realm of hobby.
What I will be writing instead—when I’m not working on new physical goodies for our tabletop company—is something I’ve already been doing off and on. Game modules. One-shot campaigns for your game night. Dread for sure, but there’s also the possibility of Dungeons and Dragons campaigns finding their way into my writing program here. My bio remains the same: Author, artist, and ambulatory coffee vessel. Writing is still a huge part of my life.
But Coldbrew is no more. There is no longer a set schedule for any new books from me, nor an idea of what might come next in that arena. My own Patreon will be changed to reflect that, with the focus being on the game modules I’ll be writing. Supporters will still get free swag, because I give back. But I couldn’t leave the Patreon as is: a crowd-funding campaign for a writer who is putting books on the back burner. Not fair to the supporters, or me.
Haunted Mountain was working. Is working. The iron is hot, and a bit of a kinkster, so to speak. We need to pursue this with fervor. We clinked wine glasses, and toasted the new path.
After Katy and I reached our decision to go all-in on this tabletop company, there had been a moment where I got really quiet. The choice felt right. The decision lifted a weight, but it was also pretty damn bittersweet. So I asked her:
“Did I fail?”
She said no. Because sometimes, things just don’t click. Sometimes, the best laid plans, etc. Sometimes, a dream has to adapt.
I want to make a living off of my creativity, and entertain others. That’s been my core identity for almost twenty years. And the crazy thing is? Even with a huge change like this, that part of me remains unchanged, and far more satisfied than it has been in ages. Will this company succeed? I hope so. I’ll be pouring sweat and blood to make it so. But who knows?
What about this blog? It’s not going anywhere, though it may be quiet for longer periods than usual. And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t address something else important to me: those that have purchased, read, and enjoyed my books over these years…
Thank you. With amazement and humility, thank you. If there is disappointment, let it be tempered with the knowledge that this wasn’t the easy choice, and that I did everything I could before having to step away.
And to you that have read my blog posts, and hopefully gleaned something for your own work, thank you. You’ve not seen the last of them, or me. After all, this isn’t goodbye. It’s just the next turning.
I’ve got projects awaiting me in the craft lab, and clients patiently waiting on their dice trays. I had best get on with this living thing. They’ll be up on Haunted Mountain soon. If it’s alright with you, I’d like to invite you to check it out. I think you might dig it.
Until next time, Horns Up.