I haven’t written here in a while.
For a reason.
When I started this blog it was in the hopes of promoting my three Noah Greene mystery novels, including the latest one, “My Grave Is Deep.” My hope was that I could attract readers by giving them an insight to my personality, my sense of humor or lack thereof, of, I don’t know, baring my soul.
And sell books.
Yes, sell books. Maybe get myself a real publisher, someone other than myself. Maybe get my books on a real bookshelf in a real bookstore, dinosaurs though they may be.
Yes, my books appear on Amazon, the online behemoth that is putting real bookstores out of business. They’re there on Amazon … where nobody can see them.
Nobody. While the number of titles in a physical bookstore, say Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million, is significant, surely in the thousands, it pales in comparison to Amazon’s millions. Unless you’ve heard of E.E. Williams, or “Noah Greene Mysteries” you aren’t going to find my books. Not without a search party and a couple dozen years to spare.
So, when I started the fourth book in the series, a little voice in my head began to ask this question: Why? Why are you doing this? Why are you taking hours out of your day to write another novel? Why are you doing research? Why are you obsessing about characters and plot?
For the few – make that very few – who will read it?
The few, of course, are my friends and family members who take pity on me when I try to guilt them into buying a book. These are people I care about. People I love. Every time I make a pitch for the book it’s to them mostly. I’m begging them to do something for me: Buy my book! Please! Please, please, please!
If they don’t, I feel bad. Not for me, but for them, for the look in their eyes when they see me and are fearful that I’ll know.
If not for them, then, for whom do I write? Myself?
I’m always amused when I hear someone say, “Write for yourself.”
Writing a book is hard. It’s a solitary activity and it takes a lot out of you. It’s so difficult, it took me 35 years to write the first book, “Tears in the Rain,” even though I knew what I wanted to write and where I wanted the story to go. Thirty-five years.
Understand it’s not just the writing, the actual process of putting words to paper. It’s the thought process that goes into it. Going to bed each night thinking of the right word, or phrase, determining how to write yourself out of the corner that every author at one time or another has put himself or herself in, and then waking up in the morning and going at it all over again. It’s exhausting.
There’s an old saying among many authors. “I like having written,” meaning we like when the process is over, not the process itself.
Why put ourselves through this? Well, because we want people to read our books. Lots of people. Lots and lots of people. Writing for oneself is a futile endeavor. Why put that much effort into something nobody will see?
Or just your friends and family will see?
That’s why I started the blog. Why I starting following many, many people on Twitter. To perhaps gain some traction out there in reader land.
Some of my author friends\acquaintances are wizards at social media. John Scalzi, a man with whom I worked at the Fresno Bee and an author I much admire, is terrific at promoting himself and his Sci-Fi novels on social media. He has thousands of Twitter followers and Facebook friends, and a widely read blog called Whatever. He writes about his books and posts pictures of his cats and his beautiful wife and daughter. He’s even made his burrito making an event to be discussed in great detail.
But he’s a great writer and he’s written some terrific books.
Am I a great writer? Are my books terrific? Well, my friends and family say so, but what else would they say? “Ah, you stink like week old fish on a 100-degree day!” I like to think I’m better than some, but know I’m not as good as others. I’ve written before that I think my novels stack up favorably to some out there. Then there are others that make me think I’m no better than a slow driver in a fast lane.
I always wanted to be a novelist. After putting away the idea of flying jets for the Air Force, I decided being an author would be just swell. I’d be famous and rich and people would like up at those bookstores for my autograph. I’m not ashamed for thinking or wanting that.
Then came life. A wife. A child. Responsibilities. Bills to pay. I was a newspaperman, and a good one. Would I be a good novelist? The gamble was too great to risk it. My father, God bless his soul, taught me many things, the most important of which was to take care of your family.
Dad was a commercial artist and worked for a company that didn’t give him the recognition he believed he deserved. He chafed at doing all the heavy lifting and not getting his due. At one point, he got so fed up that he decided to go into business for himself. Until my mother reminded him he had a son and a daughter and a mortgage and insurance payments.
That was the end of his dream.
And maybe this is the end of mine. I’m maybe 20 percent into the fourth Noah Greene novel. I’ve been at 20 percent for months now. Every time I think I’ll sit down and have at it again, that little voice in my head asks why. “You’re 70 years old,” it says. “You’ve already got three books out in the Ethernet of the world and even if nobody ever reads them, they’re there, and it’s three more than most people will ever have. Why keep beating your head against the wall? Why keep tormenting your friends and family with your pathetic begging? Why, why, why?”
Some of you, you precious few, may see this as whining, and maybe it is.
Or maybe it’s just the dying last words of a dream.