This is a guest post for Danica Cornell, one of the new friends I’ve made since embarking on this exciting journey. It was published on January 15th, 2014.
Go ahead, make a margarita: a pleasant nightmare
Last night I had a pleasant nightmare, as the song goes. Dozens of lemons had fallen under a lemon tree, and I was picking them up, throwing them into my basket, drooling at the thought of the lovely foods I could prepare with them: lemon tarts, lemonade, lemon cake, and yes, margaritas.
When I woke up, I realized just how accurate a depiction of my life this was. It feels like I’m asked to master taking a bad situation and making the best of it. But perhaps I should explain.
For the past twenty-odd years, I have been running my own web design company, which has done quite well in the meantime. We have developed almost 500 sites, including big names like Ducati, KTM or various Ministries and Universities. Throughout this time, I’ve had to deal with a fair amount of crazy, which tended to sour the experience. All in all, though, it’s been rather nice.
Lately, the balance has shifted. Crazy seems to be the rule, rather than the exception. Everyone I talk to says the same thing; too many people have lost it. Some blame the financial situation. Others claim it’s always been like this, and only now have I realized it. Perhaps there’s some truth in both statements.
I started working on my sci-fi/fantasy series Pearseus to escape from just that. It was a nice way to pour my thoughts and feelings into a fantasy situation, to let off steam in a safe way. Clients tricked me into working for free for months? Enter the villains of Pearseus. People transformed from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde all of a sudden? Must be the Whispers, the corrupting entities on the planet.
My books kept me sane throughout all this. I took my everyday observations on how people behave under stress, transformed them and catapulted them into a dystopian, fantastical future. My characters don’t fight battles with bug-eyed alien. Instead, they evolve and grow, face tough choices, make fateful decisions and suffer the consequences. They trick others and themselves, fall in love and out of it, make friends and lose them. This is a real world in my mind; every bit as real as everything that surrounds me.
Naturally, I failed to find a publisher willing to publish them. It wasn’t fast enough for some, too fast for others. It did not fit a genre, could never become a best-seller, didn’t have enough battles, had too many of them. So, I went Indie. I figured that I don’t need a gatekeeper to let me know if readers like it or not. Why not let people decide for themselves?
I self-published the first two books of the series in October, in a double launch. People seemed to appreciate my different approach. Within a couple of months, both rose to number one on Amazon (you can read more on that in my guest blog piece, “How both my books reached number one on Amazon”). Even I was surprised by the positive comments:
“Astonishing, intriguing, thoughtful”
“It will be hard to put this book down long enough to eat and sleep, never mind doing responsible things like going to work and taking care of the kids”
“[It] hits on those big archetypal themes of invasion, loss, leadership, death… and high tech. It gives the reader plenty of material for discussion.”
“Be warned: once you start reading it, you won’t be able to put it down!”
It seemed I had stumbled on something that could both help me preserve my sanity and allow me to make a living. I even bought a car with the money I made (I keep in my top drawer, occasionally taking it out for a spin in my pocket).
So, where am I today? Busy finishing the third book in the series. Oh, and I’ve decided to become a full-time author. I can’t afford to quit my day job just yet, but my long game from now on is focused on achieving this goal. I don’t call it a dream, not anymore, because a dream sounds too wooly. This is a goal, and I pride myself in achieving my goals more often than not.
So what if it’s hard to make a living out of one’s books? I just don’t care. I’ll continue to pick up the lemons that life throws at me, take them to the kitchen, squeeze them into the blender, add a dash of tequila, a splash of Cointreau and serve chilled inside obscenely large, breast-shaped glasses with salty rims. I’ve already had my lemonades; now it’s time for the margaritas!