As we entered the millennium, Scottish writer Laura Hird had dedicated half of her website to pageant new stories by established and fledging writers. The website has now gone, and with it my very first published short story titled Autumn Leaves about a little boy seeing his grandparent go through dementia. I can’t recall when exactly I got that first acceptance. I believe it was about 2003. When I read the email from Laura, I almost wept. Someone, not an editor or friend, but someone who was a writer themselves, and had books published by the very cool Rebel Inc label, responsible in the day for reissuing some of John Fante’s novels, thought I was worthy of publishing meant the world. In 2003, I had arrived, and I wanted the world to know about it. What happened next is the usual fodder of fledging writers. I had my arse handed to me on a plate by more established editors and magazines.
Some twenty years a later, it’s still happening.
I wish I can say that writing is a life-defining journey. The road is long and winding, that’s very true, but on every bend, there is misery and dejection. Around every corner there are surprises that will bloat your heart, and some that will crush it. Last week I received the news my horror collection didn’t make the preliminary ballots for the Bram Stoker awards. This is a book that has an average rating on Goodreads and Amazon of 4.5, and has been endorsed by best-selling authors like Paul Tremblay and Stephen Graham Jones. Readers proclaim it to be one of the best horror collections they’ve ever read. But it didn’t even make the list. I’m happy for those writers that did. And whoever wins within each category, I wish them every success. But Jesus, it hurt knowing I wouldn’t be there. Since Saturday, I have taken a huge step back regarding my social media footprint. I have spoken to my wife about my future, and how something that brings me such happiness can still leave me so very sad. And though the Stoker thing hurt, what hurts more is hearing that I deserve better, and that I’m just as good as some of those who are getting book deals today. Rejections, not landing an agent, that is par for the course, but knowing other people think you’re good, and you’re still self-publishing, is a third-degree burn to the heart. I think it comes down to the fact I don’t belong. For whatever reason, whatever I’ve done to piss off people of influence, I will remain always on the fringe of this industry looking in. So, I’m going to take time away from social media. Someone I trust is managing the Underbelly Books side of things, and will champion me in my absence. This will allow me to get some distance and evaluate. There are a few writing commitments I must honour, and I still plan on releasing the third Tom Nolan book before summer, but after that, who knows? Maybe I’ll write under a different name. Maybe I’ll just be less present on social media. All I know for sure is, the road has taken it out of me and I need to rest my feet.
But I want to thank those that have read my work and continue to see what others are blind to. You are the reason I will continue to write, in some form.