Why I Write vs Why I Write For Others

Art is weird. 

On the one hand, it's something we do to please ourselves. It's also something we consume to enlighten or amuse ourselves. It's a far more vital resource than I think many are willing to give it credit for, but that's another argument for another blog.

But then you decide you'd like to do your art for a job. And then everything changes, at least a little bit.

You start having a war in your head between the forces of creative juju and the forces of commercial enterprise. And it often IS a war, because the things that fuel the passion of art are not always the things that fuel our desire for a paycheck. And we DO want a paycheck, because otherwise we'd get "real" jobs, and art would become hobby and no one would ever complain about "lazy" starving artists.

There are people who DO make those two opposing forces jive together. Some people call them "sell-outs," but I'm not here to have THAT old argument either, probably because I fucking hate how easily people use that label to define the precious few who have managed to successfully eke financial gain out of an artistic pursuit. "No, Artist Person! You're supposed to amuse me AND be poor! That way I can criticize you for being a smelly, lazy piece of shit who amuses me! Like a monkey, see? Now dance, monkey, dance!"

Squeezing money out of my writing over the last seven years hasn't been easy. I have not yet gotten to the point where we could come even close to living off my income as a family. In fact, that's laughable to even consider, especially factoring in things like health insurance and other perks "real jobs" offer as part of the deal. But it's getting better. I've added workshop teaching and conventions to my stream of income sources, and that's made a big difference. I still take on freelance editing jobs. I also have an agent working hard to secure me a big book deal, so everything could possibly change at the drop of a hat. The business side of things keeps trucking, and meanwhile I keep writing.

But I write for so many different reasons now, and the reasons are all dependent upon whether we're talking about why I write for me, and why I write for you.

Because it's both.

I write for me because:

1. I can't draw for shit.

2. Sometimes ideas feel like voices from another universe are speaking through my fingertips, and that if I stop typing their words, their voices will be stuck inside me and I'll explode.

3. It is a source of concentration for me. When I'm concentrating on something, I'm at ease. I feel a sort of equilibrium that I can't seem to find anywhere else except perhaps when I'm meditating.

4. I don't always understand people or the social constructs they create. Making stories brings me a little closer to understanding, acceptance, and in some cases forgiveness.

5. Stories are an escape. We tell them in words and songs and dance and brushstrokes. Stories are what we use to bring ourselves closer to the infinite. I truly truly believe that.

6. I revel in the abstract and finding new combinations of our odd, exciting, ever-evolving language to describe a feeling or a sensation.

I write for others because:

1. I love inviting people into my fucked up head via any means necessary. Books are a great way to do that. They come in neat packages, can be bought and shared, and people tend to remember the good ones (or the REALLY bad ones).

2. I still believe there is plenty of money to be made in this industry, and I want a chunk of it.

3. The best thing is when someone says they haven't read in years, but they read your book and loved it.

4. The other best thing is when someone says your work inspired them in some way. Considering it was my love of reading and books that inspired me to become a writer a long time ago, hearing those things makes me feel like the writer I always longed to be.

5. Writing for others affords me opportunities to talk to others about writing, which is one of my favorite things to talk about.

6. Getting to work with people who love the written word as much as I do, and who have made it their life's passion, is one of the best privileges. Readers are smart, witty, and nerdy. They're my kind of people.

So there you have it. All the reasons I write, both personally and professionally. I don't know that I could do one without the other now. It isn't enough for me to just write a story and put it in a drawer (though if it sucked, I would do that and I have, a lot). I have to be able to share it with others. Otherwise it just feels kind of pointless to me...


Bullets, Babes, and Bots: A Colt Coltrane FAQ

The latest and perhaps greatest Colt story yet! Releasing 3/17/15!

Want to watch a really awesome trailer produced by Justin Wasson to whet your appetite? Look no further!

1. Who is Colt Coltrane?

Hugh "Colt" Coltrane is a former Los Angeles homicide detective turned P.I. His specialties are usually tracking down cheating husbands and deadbeats late on their alimony payments, but he also has occasional run-ins with mob figures who remember him from his policing days. Those cases have started to take a backseat of late, though, because he's been encountering other very strange events in the city, and they're starting to hit very close to home.

2. What about this robot I keep seeing? What's he all about?

Ah yes, that's Petey, Colt's mechanical sidekick. He goes everywhere with Colt. With various modes at his disposal, he can do everything from stealthy tracking and recording, photographing of scenes, on-foot pursuit, and origami. Yes, that's right. Origami. He also has some other very special capabilities, but you'll have to read the stories to find out.

3. Wait, isn't this story taking place in the 1940s?

Indeed. The first book, Colt Coltrane and the Lotus  Killer, takes place in late 1947. The latest book is in 1949. Gradually, we'll be moving into the 1950s. These aren't your typical hard-boiled mysteries, though. Imagine Raymond Chandler meets Isaac Asimov meets Indiana Jones. Without going into all the details, the LAPD uses their own brand of bots called Patented Electric Tactical Enforcers (P.E.T.E.), which is not-so-incidentally what Petey's name comes from. But there are bots all over Los Angeles. Private enterprise has taken over, and there are a lot of folks building them from scratch and scrap. The Colt stories share most of the sensibilities and the aesthetics of the 1940s as we know it, but with that technological twist thrown in.

4.  This stuff seems a little different from your other work. Don't you normally write scary stuff?

My focus is indeed contemporary suspense and horror, and the Colt series is definitely a change of pace, but I think you'll find my signatures all through it. Colt is a gritty dude with a lot of baggage, and he deals with some pretty heavy stuff. And those who know my full body of work also know I dabble in science fiction from time to time. Still, though, Colt has a starkly different tone from my other works. It's more of a period piece. I typically write stories that take place in the present day, and I would say there is a clearer underlying optimism in these stories that you have to dig a bit deeper to find in my other stuff.

However, Colt exists purely as a passion project for me. It keeps me busy between larger, traditionally published projects. I could have pitched Colt to my agent or other publishers (and who knows? I still might someday...), but in this dynamic publishing landscape where being hybrid rules, I wanted something that belonged strictly to me, and would have little danger of competing with other work of mine a publisher would have. Colt is my playground. With him, I can do what I want, when I want. I can experiment and also use it to explore more areas of the publishing side of things. He also gets me into all the comic cons, which have become a thriving and fun part of my career!

Me, fellow author Scott Bachmann, and Justin Wasson

5. Who's that other handsome fella on the Stolen Sky cover?

That's Clutch McIntyre, club entrepreneur/genius bot mechanic. Think of him as a greasier, not quite as wealthy version of Tony Stark. He was once an informant of Colt's back in the  LAPD days, but now the two are close friends. When Colt left the force, he commissioned Clutch to build him his very own bot. Clutch also runs The Parts Bin, which is the city's exclusive bot-run night club and casino. Bots serve the drinks, take the orders, deal the cards, etc. Clutch has basically taken his mechanical know-how and used it to build himself a small robot empire. He also still has access to a lot of inside channels with various criminal and underground networks.

6. How many stories are in the Colt series so far?

Three total, but soon to be four.

Colt Coltrane and the  Lotus Killer and Colt Coltrane and the Stolen Sky are the longer works.
"Colt Coltrane and the Harrowing Heights of Hollywoodland" is the mini-episode, but there is a new one coming in May: "Colt Coltrane and the Real Quick Caper."

My plan is to have 5 novels with several short stories woven in between, but who knows, it could carry on longer.

7. Do I have to read them all in order?

A lot of people have started with the short story and then jumped into the novels. I think that's fine, because the short stories aren't quite as anchored in a timeline and are meant to serve as random adventures for the gang, past, present, and possibly future. But if you're going to read the novels, I do recommend starting with Lotus Killer. While you wouldn't be lost in Stolen Sky without having read the first book, I think you'd understand Colt's arc a lot more, and the later book does reference the earlier works.

8. I am seriously loving all this artwork. Who does it for you? Does he take commissions?

My artist is Justin Wasson, a dear friend of mine in addition to being a wicked awesome illustrator. He also did the trailer illustrations for my book THE LAST SUPPER. He does indeed take commissions. The best place to find him is on Facebook at his art page.

9. This series would make an awesome comic book or movie. Do you have any plans for that?

Justin and I have talked a good bit about graphic adaptations for the existing line of books. It's just a matter of working out the logistics, finding the time, etc. I plan to pen a screenplay for Lotus Killer later this year.

10. I'm sold! I want to buy all the books! Where can I get them?

For right now, Lotus Killer is available exclusively on Amazon for Kindle, but you can get it on paperback at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Harrowing Heights, the short story, is on Kindle, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Scribd

Stolen Sky will also be available at all of those above mentioned outlets. It's also currently up for preorder until its release on March 17th, at which point the price goes up, so take advantage of the $.99 price now!