A week ago today, I released my third novel: Warrior Within.
It was the culmination of not just the ten months it took me to write it, but of the last two years of my life. It was in early March of 2011 that I first started writing, and considering how much has happened since then, it’s hard to believe that it’s only been a little over two years. Sometimes it feels like a lot longer than that.
A lot has happened in those two years. My son is almost three years old. My wife finished her MBA and got a new job. We sold the old townhouse and moved into a single family home. (It has a yard and everything.) My brother, who is thirty-five and once compared girlfriends to underwear—restrictive, uncomfortable, and entirely unnecessary—is now engaged to a very nice lady. It will be a happy day when we welcome her into the family.
Oh, and I wrote three books.
And I left my job to write full time. That was back in August, you may recall.
I could probably write a whole post about what it was like to quit my job, but I’ll sum it up with this: It was nerve-wracking. I lost sleep over it.
You know what, to heck with it. I’m going to elaborate.
I had a good job. I was an investment advisor in the high-net-worth division at Vanguard, one of the largest mutual fund companies in the world. I had a 41K a year salary, medical, dental, 401K, and even an annual bonus. (The 41K salary may not sound like much, but consider where I live. Charlotte is a low-cost-of-living city. The median per capita income is only about 31K.) I had a series 7 license (still active, actually), and my career was on a good trajectory.
In other words, I had a lot of reasons to stay.
When I started telling people I was leaving to pursue writing full-time, I expected to get pushback. I expected people to tell me I was nuts, and that I should hang on to my job with both hands. I expected people to tell me I was being selfish and irresponsible.
That’s not what happened.
Everyone who was privy to the decision had read my work. Well…most of them had, anyway. They told me I should go for it. At the time, this was encouraging, but in retrospect, it’s difficult to believe. I mean, I had a wife and a kid. Unemployment in Charlotte is around 10 percent—way higher than the national average. Competition for employment is fierce. There were thousands of people who would have killed to have my job. Much less to have my job and have success as a writer. Nevertheless, they all told me I was doing the right thing.
I’m glad I listened.
I gave up the 9-5. I gave up the cubicle, and the uncomfortable chair, and the florescent lights, and the crappy coffee. I gave up the salary, and the benefits, and the security of having a well-paying job at a respectable, successful financial firm. I traded it in for spending my days at home, and sitting in the living room with my laptop perched on my thighs, and my dogs sleeping on the couch next to me.
I’ve never been happier.
But happy wouldn’t really describe Warrior Within. In fact, taken as a whole, it’s a downright dark story. Dark, but not hopeless.
I wanted to do something different with Warrior Within. My first two novels were crafted to be entertainment, pure and simple. I wasn’t trying to make a serious literary work out of either one of them, I just wanted people to read them and have a little fun.
Along the way, however, I began to question whether or not I could write anything else. Anything better. Richer. More complex. Could I take an action-adventure/zombie apocalypse novel, and give it heart? Could I make it a statement about humanity, and relationships, and the things that drive us, and weave that into the Surviving the Dead storyline?
Back in July of last year, I didn’t know. So like every other challenge I’ve faced in my life, I decided to tackle it head-on.
I drummed up bad memories. It wasn’t hard to do, I’ve got plenty of them. All the way back to when I was a little kid. Hell, my mind is a fucking torture garden—festooned with anger vines, lush with the flowers of melancholy, and trimmed with thorny hedges of regret. I had plenty to draw from.
I took all of that, distilled it down into a soupy, gelatinous napalm, and I set it on fire. You might notice that things get a little prose-y in the last few chapters of Warrior Within. This was not an accident.
It took a lot out of me. I find myself a little lethargic, now. I spend a lot of time looking out windows and sitting alone in the silence. My writing is different. Clipped. Shorter. None of the long sentences that I’ve been so fond of up to this point. I think I just don’t have the energy.
But don’t worry, folks. It won’t last long. I get like this every time I accomplish something big. It happened when I got out of the Navy. When I graduated from college. When I got the job at Vanguard. When my son was born. After my first and second novels. It’s just a cloud that comes over me, shades me for a while, and then blows away.
This cloud will clear, and when it does, I’ll get back to work in earnest.
I have my next project lined up already. I’m doing a collaboration with Josh Guess, a fellow zombie author whom you may have heard of. We’ve been corresponding for a while now, discussing writing and such, and he threw an idea at me that I found intriguing.
I would like to set some expectations up front, so as not to upset people.
It is a stand-alone novel. It is set in the Surviving the Dead universe. It features characters you will recognize.
It is told from two perspectives, one in first person, one in third person.
It is not pivotal to the Surviving the Dead storyline. Josh and I are just writing it for fun.
It will be shorter than my other novels, probably around sixty thousand words or so. Still novel-length, but not excessively so.
This book shouldn’t take us that long. We each only have to write half of it. We should be able to knock it out in a month or so. I think you’ll like it.
After that, the tale of Gabe and Eric will continue, and I’ll get started in earnest on the vampire hunter series that I keep promising, but have yet to deliver. Not sure of the timeline yet. I’ll have to get back to you on that.
With all that said, let me again express my sincere and profound gratitude to each and every one of you. To all my readers, thank you. You are the reason I do this. Without you, I’d still be sitting in my cubicle and listening to rich people complain. I really don’t miss listening to rich people complain.
You rescued me from that, one book at a time.
Thank you is a paltry phrase. It strives and fails. Badly.
But still. Thank you.