May 2022 Newsletter: For Love or Money?
Do I write for love or money or something else entirely?
A couple of months ago, I had an encounter with a person who made me think about my motives for writing fiction. Here’s what happened.
A few days before the incident, we’d had our house sprayed for ants, but the ants persisted and were swarming up the tiles around my shower. So, I called the owner of the pest control company we’ve used for more than thirty years, and he sent over his dad who started the company and now fills in on jobs when the technicians are out on scheduled calls.
Dad, whom I will call Sam for the purposes of this essay, arrived promptly at 1 o’clock when I’d just begun attending a webinar on writing. And probably because he saw me look in the direction of my home office, he asked, “Still writing?”
“Why yes,” I said. “In fact, I’m very excited about the book I’ve been working on. It’s coming out soon.” This book is Die by the Sword, a novel of suspense, a project that has lured me back to it in different forms for thirty years.
“Make any money?” Sam said. And before I could respond, he said, with a sneer, “I know you don’t. You wouldn’t live in this house if you did.”
Pretty obviously, in Sam’s mind, the only reason for doing anything is making money. But for me, probably money goes at the bottom of my list of reasons why I write. Mostly that’s because if I think a lot about the money I might not make from my writing, I get depressed and don’t write at all. (We’ll come back to making money later on.) We’ll keep love at the top. I simply and absolutely love to write fiction. But I have other reasons why I write.
Let me flashback to the ‘70’s. When I went to the Ohio State University, I wrote papers required by my courses and stories like “Graduate Student Blues” to entertain myself and my friends. I also wrote a novel (my first) in diary form as a way of exploring the subject of my dissertation, fiction in diary form.
But there’s another motivation as well. In my novels and stories, I like to show people my readers and I like solving problems like rescuing a loved one from peril and not letting killers get away with their crimes. Our troubled world certainly needs a whole bunch of problem solvers.
I write because my characters need me. Without me, they can’t exist of course. And even as I write this, I have one character in my mind who says, “Get back here. You said you were going to change my name. You promised. And you haven’t done it. And I won’t shut up until you’ve given me that nifty new name that connects me with the place shown in Die by the Sword with the old Kansas City my grandfather and grandmother know in your calendar mysteries like January Jinx.”
And I need my characters. They make me laugh. They make me cry. They surprise me. And they help me escape this troubled world.
On the practical side, I write fiction because it helps keep my brain alive and well. You better believe that I need to keep my mind alive to juggle the major plot line of a novel, especially a mystery novel like Die by the Sword with all its clues and suspects, and two to four subplots as well.
But I do want to explain how unfortunate the timing of Sam’s visit was for me when I was rushing to complete Die by the Sword in time to meet the pre-order deadline of Memorial Day weekend (this weekend!) that I’d set up. The conversation with Sam caused me to lose my confidence in myself and in Die by the Sword, so I came to wonder if that novel had too many plot holes that, in my dotage, I couldn’t even see to fix. So, I abandoned that novel and went over to another project I’d started but abandoned early this year: publishing my calendar mysteries on other platforms through a service called Draft2Digital.
And something fascinating happened. As I edited the text of digital version of January Jinx, Book 1 in the series, I found myself laughing and tearing up for my wonderful characters and rooting for them, too, even though I’ve read and rewritten the book at least a dozen times in at least three quite different forms. The joy I find in writing fiction is my primary motivation to do it.
And so, I’ve decided to resume work on Die by the Sword with a tentative publication date of September 2, 2022, though I’m not setting up another pre-order in case I don’t make that deadline. I’ll keep you posted.
Stay safe and well in this troubled world . . .
I’m really pleased with my new cover design for the digital versions of my calendar mysteries with facets of the birthstone framing the image. And I want you to know that you can now buy the eBook version of January Jinx not just from Amazon but from Barnes & Noble, as shown in the screen shot above, Apple, Kobo, and a number of other platforms as well. I hope to publish the other books in the calendar historical mystery series through Draft2Digital at a regular pace this year.