Riches to Rags


My Journey to Becoming an Author

Okay, so maybe not riches, but I was earning a comfortable six-figure income, living in a house that was much to big for me. Strike that, not so much living there as sleeping there on my days off. I worked in the oilfield for about ten years, and much of the time I was away from home. I would work between 13-15 hours per day while at the wellsite, and I scribbled in my spare time.

I wrote my first novel-style book when I was offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. One hitch, 49 days, one completed first draft. I was into webcomics at the time, and wanted to do something bigger. I spent my days off researching story ideas for a comic book, and sketching some drafts. Work called, I stuffed my belongings into an offshore bag, and realized that the comic would never be a reality. Between cramped living conditions, very little free time, and helicopter and boat rides, I simply couldn’t transport my drawing stuff without it getting damaged.

I arrived on the rig, went through the safety briefing, and went to work. Just another day in the oil-patch. I rigged up all of my equipment, and after about 16-17 hours, I finally got some food and a shower, I headed to my state room to lay down. A state room on this ship meant two bunks with a narrow walkway between them, a footlocker, and a tiny shower/toilet combo in a closet. The previous inhabitant left a novel in the room, and I was still amped up from all the coffee and soda, so I gave it a try. It was absolutely horrible. I hated every word, I was finding typos. This was a trade published book. I thought, “If this guy can get away with it…” That’s pretty much how my writing journey began.

I punched out a draft, like I said, in less than 2 months, edited it for years, on and off, and finally realized that I didn’t have a novel. I had a short story collection. That novel was my writing education. I would break off writing and editing to learn grammar rules. Each pass felt like I was looking at garbage written by someone else. And the story arc was more of a bouncing ball trajectory. I also learned the art of querying and totally failed to land an agent after 200 letters spread over years. I took a sabbatical from writing, until my brother called one night.

It was shortly after finalizing my divorce, and he basically said, “If you don’t publish that book, then I’m going to take it and publish it.” He put things in perspective. I told him that I had other ideas bouncing around in my brain, and that night, started brainstorming CORP, which became Incorporated First Strike.

It was the beginning though. I knew I could write, and write I did. — I think that’s really the best take-away you get from finishing the first novel. You have the confidence that you can do it again — Three novels to first draft in about 7-8 months. I couldn’t stop myself, I was addicted, and the other two were written between edits and polishes on CORP, and I was still working 13 hours per day or more (if I had to be roused in the night to fix some problem). If I wasn’t doing job-stuff, I was writing. I started playing on social media and found some awesome writing groups full of great people. I started my blog, to keep myself in practice. I wrote short stories and articles, tried finding a place to publish them, and started freelancing, and failing, at all of it. But I kept writing.

I met my first publisher through freelancing. He was a startup, wanted some stories, and fell in love with this concept piece called Bundled Complexes, which became Viral Spark. Bundled Complexes was about a boy trying to win a date in a futuristic world where whole communities are supported in self contained buildings. It captivated my soon to be publisher, and he commissioned me to write the trilogy.

The oilfield was still taking hits, so I started rearranging all of my finances, to one purpose. If everything went wrong, I would still have my property. (Oh yeah, somewhere in the middle of all that stuff above I bought a small tract in Missouri) I took out another loan on my house to pay it off, and as my focus drew more in line with sustainable living and writing, and my stress level continued to mount, I finally realized that I needed to leave the job. I wrote a blog post about the details of the event. I started up my freelancing things again, and worked at that for a couple of years before finally getting boots on the ground at my homestead.

I’ve had some ups and downs: high-paying writing gigs, gall bladder cancer, speaking invites, Lyme disease, etc. The extra money I had saved up to build my house was whittled away by medical bills and other bullshit during recovery. I made my last stand when I had to cash out my 401K. I got a job locally, and built my house well enough that I can now live in it.

Finances are low, so the building process has sort of halted for now, but I have my property, a nice little spread of garden, and a solar-powered house. It’s not the most comfortable life, but by no means a terrible one. I do a lot of things the old-fashioned way, and I’m learning how to grow all of my own food. There are dangers and risks, as with any life, but the quiet scenery gives me time to relax and think. Sometimes too much time.

I drive my own story now, for better or worse, and I encourage others to do the same. Plot driven stories are boring, be the character that drives his or her own plot.