Any writer will tell you that victories in this business come few and far between. There’s not a lot of glory in applying ass to chair day after day, month after month, and year after year. Most writers do it out of compulsion.
That’s me, too.
Sitting alone for months and years with characters of your own creation, trying to tell a story that does them justice, is not much of a social life. Spending half that time feeling positive you don’t have what it takes to do this at the highest level doesn’t do much for your self-confidence, either.
And don’t even get me started about the long, drawn-out process of bringing a book to market after you write it. It can take years, if you’re lucky enough to get there at all. There are high water marks and pot holes around every corner along the way. But mostly it’s just waiting and wondering if anyone will care. Writers live by the “hurry up and wait” mantra, like it or not.
Which is why these last few weeks have been special. They’ve also felt like a whirlwind of up and down emotions. You see, my first full-length novel, Texas Two-Step, came out this month. And the press it received to date has been positive, if sparse. I’d like to see it making a bigger splash, just as any writer would. I also realize that in today’s market a big part of that is up to me to achieve. I’m doing my best.
I’m proud of the book. It took almost two years to bring it to market, not counting the actual writing. It will be another year before the follow up, Rose City, arrives. That book will be four years old by then. That’s what this business is like.
I decided to take a chance and invest some money in travel to celebrate and promote Texas Two-Step’s release. My hope was to get the word out, but also to spend some time with other writers, feeling like I’d made it… somewhere?
So I arranged to read at several Noir at the Bar events in several cities over the course of a few weeks. I’ve hit 3 so far, and boy are my arms tired… That’s a bad joke, in case you’re wondering.
The experience felt like work at times, and like fun at others. It contained both personal and professional highs and lows in abundance. Murphy’s Law reared its head at every turn. I learned a lot about how to promote my book, and also some hard lessons about the relationship between independent publishers and independent bookstores, too.
I learned that sometimes you have to put your feelings down and act like a professional even when things don’t go your way, instead of taking your ball and going home. Or, worse, when things go in ways that largely negate your efforts and make you feel like a small-time artist. I tried to understand others’ positions rather than throwing a fit. And trust me, I can throw a mean fit. I’ve been working on that with mixed results, so I’ll call this a victory.
I spent a rainy weekend in Seattle, a snowy one in Denver, and a happy one in Dallas. I drove through the very country that inspired Texas Two-Step’s cannabis-running plot, and laughed at all the signs for cannabis defense lawyers along highway 287 through the Texas Panhandle.
I didn’t laugh at the dozens of cops searching cars on the side of the road. The war on drugs remains in full effect, and it’s disgusting. It made the book feel timely, particularly driving on the 4/20 weekend on the most traveled route from Colorado to Texas.
Noir at the Bar Seattle
My personal life flared up with what felt like major issues the day before I left for the Seattle event. The time away provided plenty of perspective, though. I needed that. I encountered well-meaning but misguided censorship in Seattle, but also camaraderie and fun.
I got wet in the rain for two days straight, and explored the subterranean streets of Pioneer Square in the process. I drank lots of Manny’s Pale Ale. I felt firsthand how out of control the political divide is in this country, and vowed to do my best not to contribute to it (after ranting about it on social media). And I spent ten hours on planes in two days to get there and back.
Noir at the Bar Dallas
Back home in Dallas, I got to host and read at one of the best Noir at the Bar events I’ve been to in a long time. Every reading was pitch perfect, and the outdoor venue provided a perfect mix of city sirens and back-porch aesthetic that made the night feel special. I’m honored to be organizing Noir at the Bar events here in Dallas. I can’t wait for the next one.
Noir at the Bar Denver
I hung out with old friends in Denver, ate at my favorite haunts, and mourned a life there that no longer exists for me. I think it gave me closure in some ways I hadn’t expected. My heart will always remain in those rocky mountains, though.
I also got the chance to remind myself how many talented writers are currently publishing in crime fiction. And, trust me, there are a ton of them. I made new friends and came to admire them almost in the same breath.
It was awesome.
I damn near bought as many books as I sold, but I’m okay with that. My love for books brought me here in the first place—I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Check out Texas Two-Step
I delivered readings that killed, and readings that felt flat. I saw others do the same. And throughout all of it, I gained a lot of perspective on what it takes to succeed in a business where almost no one does.
I’m going to apply the lessons accordingly.
I hope you’ll consider picking up Texas Two-Step and giving it a read. I’ll love you forever if you review it on Amazon and recommend it to your friends. I’ll be nervous as hell around you if you tell me you’ve already read it. I’ll be grateful for your feedback even if you hate it. Lord knows I’m grateful for the experience of the last two weeks. It felt like turning a corner.
Until next time…