My Orphan Child

A couple of blog posts ago, I said a writer’s life is one of contradictions, especially an independent writer. Think of us as Bruce Wayne and Batman. For most of us, our day jobs (“Bruce”) pave the way for our night job (“Batman”). We run the rat race to finance our wicked and fun hobbies of writing and self-publishing, not to mention also keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. Some of us separate the two identities in their own compartments, while others blend them together, being “loud and proud” about our books and writing accomplishments.

Writing is our escapism from our day jobs. Our rules in our worlds.

The harsh reality of independent publishing is most of us will never break even financially. A few of us win the lottery or find the golden ticket. Most of us will not, but we carry on because we must. Like Batman for Bruce Wayne (or vice versa), writing is our vengeance. We have demons to exorcise.

And if we happen to tell you a good story along the way, that’s a win-win for everyone.

But sometimes in our desperation to to be relevent, we cross over to Arkham Asylum.

The 2010s were exciting for me as a writer because I was finally a published writer. I’d been nibbling at the edges by taking all the available creative writing classes I could take as an undergrad, a four-year degree that took sixteen years to complete. The reward for graduating was the Rat Race. Much better money, but so much stress and tons of soul-sucking responsibilities. I continued to nibble at the writing thing until I pulled the ripcord in November 2012 and did NaNoWriMo for the first time. “Duties Faithfully Executed” was published the following April.

I was the typical stupid writer because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know how to market, I didn’t know how to interact in the online Writer’s Community, and I had this blessed innocence that my books would eventually allow me to walk away from my day job.

So naive. Pat me gently on the head.

I tried various writing styles and genres, most of which didn’t see the light of day. I did publish one mistake, and eventually removed it from Amazon because the technical parts of the book were bad. The story was good, but I got too caught up in style and not enough in substance. If you know where Washoe Lake is in Nevada, go to the deepest part and you’ll find that book at the bottom of the lake, chained to an anvil where it belongs.

The other “mistake” from my pubescent days as a writer was this book, “Love and Murder on I-80 West.” I had such dreams. I wanted a cutting-edge film noir manuscript with dark alleys, femme fatales, and an unlikeable protagonist that readers would want to drown alongside that other book at the bottom of the lake. I also wanted it to be financially successful, so I made an editorial decision that doomed it from the beginning.

This is a Not-Safe-for-Work book, graphic in both sex and violence.

Let’s be adults here (and you better be 18+ if you want to read this book): we know there is a huge market for sex and violence. Mansions are built on the foundation of porn and explosions. I wanted a very small piece of that fool’s gold, so I descended to a level of writing that I’d never tried before and have not again visited.

Then the damndest thing happened: a good story emerged.

Oh, I wanted to hate Tucci. He began as the personification of the bullies that tortured me throughout my life, and Karma was going to be the bitch that rode his ass all the way to the Gates of Hell. I wanted him to suffer all the punishments earned through a lifetime of inward and outward hate.

Did not work out that way.

In fact, “I-80” is one of my favorite books.

Yet the sex porn and the violence porn stayed in the book. Why, you ask?

My soulmate and writing partner for life, Cassidy Carson, and I debated this issue at length before and after publication, and we agreed that sex and violence were a very real part of Tucci’s life and personality. I could have used gentler words, which I ‘ve done in other books. There is no more powerful tool available to the writer than the reader’s imagination, and my other books use that tool.

Graphic Reality is Tucci’s life. The porn stayed in.

Yeah, I agree that’s rationalizing to some degree, but following that concept improved the book. Tucci turned out to be my most complex character. You’ll see why as you read.

On the other hand, I was embarrassed that I’d written such a book, and I was worried about the reaction from family, friends, and colleagues who knew I was a writer. “Compromise” was a nice way of saying I took a half-assed approach in publishing the book in 2017 under the second pen name of “Connor Mayes.” I marketed what I could, but quickly disappeared into Washoe Lake with nary a ripple, resting unchained beside that other mistake of a book. You can barely find it on Amazon.

Every time I thought of my poor orphan child of a book, I was unhappy and pissed because, gosh darn it, “I-80 West” is a good story that happens to have porn. It deserved a better fate, so here it is. If my family, friends, and colleagues think differently of me, that’s on them. I’m getting to that age where public and private judgments don’t have the personal impact they once did.

Bottom Line: If you don’t like my books, don’t read them.

“I-80 West” is coming home where it belongs.

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