Setbacks (and Steps Forward)

The Setbacks

This is a difficult post to write, but one that’s long overdue.

If you were to have asked me at the start of the year, I’d have told you that 2022 was going to be my best year ever. I was hitting my 10th anniversary as a published writer and I had a lot to look forward to on the horizon:

  • INFECTED had just been turned into a fantastic audiobook app, with both the narrator’s production company and the app developers hungry for more Click Your Poison content. We were scheduling 2-3 new CYP apps per year, starting right away.
  • The CEO of a board game company commissioned me to write a follow up to the most successful gamebook Kickstarter of all time, offering a very generous payment with tons of creative freedom and collaboration with game designers to add board game elements.
  • A pair of Hollywood producers asked me to write an interactive film for streaming on a major platform, with an eye toward producing my CYP books as interactive mini-series as well.

I was, of course, over the moon.

No, even more, I was terrified that I wouldn’t have time to do all of these projects. We were set to move from California to Colorado in May due to my wife’s job, and with two kids under two-years-old, the complications were myriad.

One by one, each of these projects fell through in some form or fashion. I went from feeling like working on interactive books for a decade was finally starting to pay off in some life-changing ways, to feeling like I wasn’t anywhere further along my writing journey than when I started.

By April, it was clear none of them were moving forward.

All of this has led to a deep and profound depression, one that I’m only beginning to climb out of. Instead of throwing myself into work, I threw myself into moving. The new house turned out to be quite the fixer upper, so I spent most of my days learning new skills on YouTube and working with my hands, trying not to rest long enough to be left alone with my darker thoughts.

It’s been a sabbatical that was useful, even if it wasn’t fulfilling my wildest dreams. Still, it gave me time to examine my thoughts and feelings more deeply.

Some Reflection

I’ve realized a few reasons why the loss of these opportunities hurt so much.

First, was a sense of validation. It feels petty to say that out loud (or write those words, as it were), but it’s true. I’m “just” a self-published author. I had never sought out a publisher for my interactive books, but for the past three years I had been querying a traditional novel without success. Each rejection letter had been a small blow to my confidence, which weakened my resolve to the point where these three larger blows completely knocked me over. I felt the sting of imposter syndrome. Like a fraud. It felt like anyone with internet access could accomplished what I had professionally.

Second, I’m equally ashamed to say, was due to money. I’ve been a working writer for the last decade, but not because I can afford to do so. I’ve long called my wife the patron of my art, and I’m grateful that her career gives me the freedom to pursue my dreams, but I’d like to be able to return that favor and offer her financial freedom as well. These projects promised a payday more than I had earned in a cumulative ten years and at least some of that validation I craved was financial.

Lastly, I think I’m ready for something different. I love movies, I love games, and I love audiobooks — and I loved the idea that I could write these things for a living. Even if the novel I was querying took off, I have several non-interactive books inside of me and would have been happy to turn to that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my Click Your Poison book series and I’m grateful for every one of my readers. But I never planned to solely write interactive books and I think I can reach a wider audience with something different. It’s my hope, that if you like my writing, you’ll follow me to whatever that may be.

The Steps Forward

Before I tell you my plan to dig myself out of this hole, I’m going to appeal to you to join my author mailing list. Much of what I’ll be working on for my steps forward will be released at a later date, and if you don’t want to miss those announcements, you’ll want to subscribe to both that and this blog.

1) I’m getting that novel out into the world. It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever written and I feel like it’s too important to keep it hidden because I can’t find the right agent to champion the book. I’ll be the one to champion it. My readers will champion it, I’m certain. I’m starting by publishing it serially on Kindle Vella, and you can follow that journey now. I’ll tell you more about “Social Vampire” later, so stay tuned

At a new school you get a chance to reinvent yourself, so…why not be a Vampire? https://www.amazon.com/kindle-vella/story/B0BDGM1J8J

2) I’m going to make a Deluxe Illustrated Collector’s Hardcover of every Click Your Poison book, starting backwards. I did INFECTED first, and that’s available now, but the HAUNTED hardcover has also just launched. That also deserves its own post, but suffice it to say these are beautiful editions that take a lot of time and care to create. For the time being, however, these will be the only CYP launches on the horizon.

3) There will be more novels. I have plans for a zombie western, an entire sci-fi series, and more. And there will be audiobooks of those, eventually. If there’s an appetite for it, I could see a CYP tie-in book. For example: a full, sprawling sci-fi epic with world building and multiple trilogies, that then has a Click Your Poison book allowing you to play in that world.

4) There (might) be other games. I’ve been tinkering with the idea of a Kickstarter or something similar for an interactive book that also has gamification elements. I’m not sure about this yet, but it’s a strong possibility.

5) Stop feeling sorry for myself. I apologize for a rambling, self-pitying rant here, but I think it’s worth sharing my struggles with other creators and my fans, as well as documenting the way I feel at the end of my first professional decade. Because one thing is for sure — I’m not done. Will I read this one day and think, “Well, not much has changed”? Or will it be something to point at when I feel like I’ve reached greater heights to inspire others to push through dark times? We’ll have to wait and see.

Until then, I remain faithfully your author,

PS – I still have hopes that more CYP audiobook apps will arrive at some point in the future, but it won’t be this year. The Hollywood folks have never “officially” cancelled on me, I’m just reading between the lines due to a lack of progress. The board game, however, appears that not just my project was cancelled, but the whole company has gone caput.

8 thoughts on “Setbacks (and Steps Forward)

    • Seconded! Much more to say, but I admire your work ethic, your openness and your writing. I’ll be grabbing that Social Vampire when Vella comes to the UK or when a samizdat version becomes available.

      Really sorry about the board game company one :-/

    • Thanks, Matt. We tend to only share our accomplishments, and I don’t want to make it seem like I’m not proud of mine, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the dark times, too.

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