Somehow, dear readers, it is the year 2021.
I haven’t posted much on here lately. I’ve been busy finishing university and dealing with lockdowns with a small child, and now we are looking to sell the house. But I’ve also hit some milestones amongst all of that, and it has me in a reflective mood.
It’s just over 20 years since I sold (and was paid for) my first short story, the Third Sigil, to the long defunct website deathlings.com. It’s 10 years since that story was reprinted in Devil Dolls and Duplicates. It’s still my worst published story, but it’s a story that has opened a lot of doors.
It’s just over 10 years since my most widely read work, the first Sixsmiths graphjc novel, was published. I sometimes wonder if that was the apogee of my career. I made exactly zero dollars from that widely distributed first edition, and, while I thought it would open doors for me, they turned out to be windows that I wasn’t agile enough to climb through. I didn’t manage to follow that book up well, and then I got married and acquired a mortgage. Having less free time and disposable income, I shifted my focus back to prose, and that was going well… and then we spawned a child and then I went back to school. Now it’s 2021 and, yeah. My writing career is still not where I hoped I would be.
The publishing world has changed through that whole time, also, and, if I am honest, it’s not where I’d like it to be either. Traditional publishing is a lot more competitive now than it was in 2006, when I was close to landing a literary agent and thought Bloody Waters would get a mainstream publishing deal. As successful as the indie-published book has been for me, I feel like it never got the shot it deserved. And that’s my fault. In this age where you need to be able to build your own platform across traditional and social media, and project manage everything, and also still produce amazing work, it’s all feeling a bit Hunger Games. Although I admit I always preferred Battle Royale. (I’ll have the sickle, please.)
A couple of years ago now I was lamenting that I have never been a prolific writer of short stories. Trying to build a career in both longform prose and comics has meant I just haven’t had the time for short works. But. I’ve published more short stories in the last two years than in any other similar period. 3 shorts, with another coming soon and a fifth commissioned work I have yet to start on. This is partly due to having won the trust of some editors who know that I can deliver. It’s also partly due to the fact that I’ve only had bandwidth to to work on shorter pieces, and these have mostly come with deadlines that have forced me to turn them in, because I have finally, after 20 years, started to think of myself as a professional. Opportunity plus motivation.
I’m really proud of my recent short work and I think the newest couple of pieces are my best shorts to date. Previously the stories I thought were my best were the ones I could never quite sell. I’ve become a better short story writer in spite of myself, and that has led to further opportunities. Best of all, I’m proud of the work I’ve been doing in a way that I haven’t felt for years.
University is done now. It certainly had its cost, but it’s lead to a huge step up for me at my day job. Now that the decks are clearing, I’m trying to get my creative works back on track. X-Dimensional Assassin Zai is coming out next year from IFWG Australia. I have two new novels underway, a graphic novella that’s been languishing in an almost complete state for a couple of years, another comic… let’s see what doors these open, and where they lead.
Another good couple of decades, I hope.