Looking Back: Year Four in the Books
What a blessing to have spent another year writing and editing, in creating new worlds and pouring thoughts and emotions and experiences onto the written page. It truly is a sacred privilege to be able to write. I don’t think I’ve ever been more aware of that than I have been this year. And, as is my custom, I’d like to take a look back at all the ups and downs, all of the travails and triumphs, all the mess and the majesty that was this 2016, year four in the books.
The Chronotrace Sequence
The year started off with a bang as Ascent of the Nebula was released in January, the final book in The Chronotrace Sequence. This was (in my humble opinion) my best novel to date. It had an awesome cover, an action-packed plot, a plethora of twists and revelations about the main character Adan, mind-bending technological gadgets and…hardly anyone read it.
No doubt this was largely my fault. I learned when launching Through the Viscera that I have no idea how to market a series. Into the Vast did okay for a while, but when it came time for the second installment in the series, I had no idea how to get the word out to those who had read the first book. I still don’t. The whole time I was writing Ascent I knew there would be no magical pot of gold waiting at the end of that rainbow. These are not stand alone books. And since no one had read the second book, I was pretty sure I was in for a repeat trip to the skinny man’s buffet.
But I had to finish telling the story. And I’m glad I did. I grew so much as a writer through that experience. And from the few people who did read it, I’ve heard very positive things. I don’t believe the book failed because it wasn’t a good book. It failed because I put almost zero effort into promoting it.
Doing the Math
So why didn’t I bother to market it? Why spend months of my life writing a book, release it, and then, KERPLUNK, drop it into the backyard ditch? It’s because based on my experiences marketing Into the Vast I have at least some kind of a feel as to what sort of return on investment I can get from spending time marketing. And I determined that it would be a better long term investment to focus on improving my writing rather than trying to flip a few greenbacks my way.
That said, since my next book, The Last Motley, is not a sequel or a threequel (stop nagging me spellcheck, it’s a word, I looked it up!) I do plan on marketing it more heavily. It’s also fantasy, a new genre for me professionally, so it feels like a bit of a fresh start. And because I’m going to focus more on promoting it, this one will take much longer to get out of the kitchen. This is crockpot fiction, baby. Slow-cooked for that down-home fantasy flavor. I still hope to release it sometime in 2017, but I’ll keep you posted.
Year of the Silmarillion
Probably the most outwardly “successful” thing I did this year (and certainly the most fun) was to participate in The Silmarillion Awards. These were a two month long fantasypalooza, something like the “Fantasy Oscars”, where the recipients of the awards were fictional characters from our favorite books. Ten authors, loads of fantasy characters, and some shiny online medallions. All that made for some Middle-Earth sized mounds of fun. If you missed out on all the literary shenanigans, or the article I wrote in praise of J.R.R. Tolkien in honor of the occasion, hold on to your pointy wizard hats and magic rings because it will be back next year! In July, to be precise. Can’t wait.
Year of the Head Slam
And finally, this year was marked by a very unpoetic, very ungraceful, and very non-fictional tumble I took in August, in which I bonked my noggin and came up foggin’. I’m still not over it. Still dealing with head pain. But thankfully I have able to write these last few weeks. Perhaps not for as long and tirelessly as I’d like yet, but I can write. And for that I am ever so thankful.
So that’s a big reason why I am so appreciative of the ability to write. It’s not something to take for granted. If you are a writer, or a creative, or even just have a hobby or vocation you are passionate about, savor each moment you are able to pour into it. Don’t see it as a grind. Or as a chore. See it for what it is—a privilege. You are not guaranteed your next breath. Or the ability to do what you love. Life is but a vapor that is here a little while and gone tomorrow.
Jonathan Edwards, one of my heroes of the faith, wrote several resolutions as a young man and a new believer. One of them bears repeating here. It’s number five on his list:
Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
Edwards believed, as I do, that the chief end of man is “to glorify God and enjoy Him fully.” For me that means writing stories about transcendent truths, that point people to their Creator, and which seek to reflect his goodness, truth, and beauty.
And that is just what I intend to do.