Failing Upwards

I have bad news. You can work hard, be smart, do exactly what you want to do and still not achieve your goals.

Seriously, now, is it some kind of peculiar madness of our times, that we believe if we do everything we’re supposed to, and if we’re good at whatever we do, reward will follow? Or is this part of how humans are put together?

Is the same thing that allowed us to survive – the ability to intuit patterns of behavior and distinguish the ones most/least likely to lead to long life – as a species the thing that makes people believe “but I did x so y is supposed to happen?”

What brought this about was my husband talking about a writer (and the details are fuzzy, because he talks about these things while I’m cooking, so when a pot suddenly boils over I lose a great portion of the story) who was/is quitting writing because after ten years of trying, she’s still not a bestseller.

(Let’s ignore for a moment that for an indie to set out to be a bestseller is an unrealistic goal, since “bestseller” is a very specific thing that necessitates being stocked in the right bookstores and selling at the right velocity. You can sell very well and make a lot of money without ever being one of the recognized bestseller lists.)

Ten years. And she’s quitting because she’s not at the top of her profession. My first reaction was to grimace and say “Oh, well, ten years in I think I’d sold a short story, and they never paid me for it.”

If it were just one person, though, or even just my profession, it wouldn’t warrang writing about it. Yeah, sure, my profession attracts more people with this belief, perhaps because of how many stories about underdog makes good have become part of people’s subconscious. (This doesn’t mean we should stop writing them.)

I’ve run into any number of newbies coming to me – to me – and asking what they’re doing wrong because they have four short stories out and no award or they have two novels out and are not bestsellers. It’s mind boggling since, presumably, when they ask me for advice, they respect me, but they seem to think that awards and “bestseller” status are a measure of success. I am usually flabbergasted, but let it go. After all, as the movie sliding doors puts it “you’ll finish your novel and we’ll be rich.” Eh.

But it’s not just writers. It’s the people with degrees in puppetry and working as baristas, who sob into microphones that they “did everything right” and yet they can’t find a job in which to use their advanced degree.

In some of these cases, you have to have a heart of stone not to laugh like an hyena. I mean, puppetry? How many good paying jobs do you think are out there for that? Or, of course “Sure your mom and your cat love it, but did you really think yet another twilight clone would take you to the big time?”

But it seems to be one of those pesky human things. The idea that if you do everything right, the reward will follow inexorably. And unfortunately its converse idea, the idea that if you aren’t wildly successful at whatever, you must be doing something wrong.

Take infertility, for instance. I had no reason to think it would hit me. I got married at 22 and we started trying almost right away. When we didn’t get pregnant in a year, I went and got the books and followed the advice. We did everything right. And yet month after month our hopes were dashed.

Turned out of course my issue was more complex, probably caused by a childhood treatment for eczema, and, well, needed more than (pardon me the graphics) remaining on your back with a pillow beneath your butt after sex for an hour.

Did it stop the suspicion that somehow we were doing something wrong? Well, for us it did. Not for other people. From people who tried to slip my husband noodie magazines (yeah, because that was the problem with 20 something year olds) to my parents who, G-d help me, realized belatedly we’d never had the talk and thought I must have got it all wrong (How does one get it wrong? I DON’T know) and who tried therefore to explain to me how babies were made. At 26. Four years married. Head>desk. (Mom, dad, I’m Odd, but not that ODD.)

And then there is a vast portion of the SJWs GHHs and OWSs. They think that because things aren’t going according to plan something must have gone wrong. Of course being themselves they think OTHER PEOPLE have done the dirt to them, and that’s why things aren’t going according to plan, because they did “everything right.” And it baffles them they’re not at the top yet, so it must be someone’s fault and “the man” is holding them down.

This is normally the reaction of people who are both “good children” – i.e. conformists – and who have been spoiled and told how great they are their whole lives.

For the rest of us, the person who is failing is more likely to feel guilty. “I’m failing. What am I doing wrong?”

Now, this is a good thing. If you are failing, and you want to succeed, you should study what you’re doing wrong and try to improve. And you should seek help. (Yep, something people on this blog, starting with the writer get told rather often, right.)

But it’s not the only thing. And it also depends on what you call “success.”

Say in publishing, in the age of indie: there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to make a living from this, given enough time and a modicum of ability. (The time is my big issue. Ya’ll have noticed more guest posts? Yeah. My goal is to only write three posts a week. Hopefully (I’ve been promised) the family will step up on these. Being Hoyts and all. BUT for at least two years I need to cut back on the DAILY posting, because it does eat my other writing. I will probably do aggregator or funny stuff, too, if no guest post forthcoming. Maybe I’ll hit the gif box again.)

If you’re writing at least a short novel every three to six months and putting it up, you’ll be able to make a living from this sooner or later. (The mean seems to be two to three years.) BUT that is not the same as being a bestseller, or being acclaimed, or getting awards. Not the same thing at all.

And if you do “everything right” and go to college with a STEM degree, you’ll probably be able to support yourself. Note the probably. It depends on where you are and what you’re willing to do, because even a STEM degree is no guarantee that you’ll find something in your precise area. Are you willing to move? Learn a specialized trade? You’ll probably be able to support yourself. (The same is true, btw, if you don’t go to college and just learn a skill in demand. If I had my time again, I’d have married Dan at eighteen – okay, this also necessitates my not being clueless, but… — and taken a community college course in furniture making, instead of my fancy degree.)

Looking around our exceedingly well educated acquaintance, I don’t know a single person who works at what they studied in college. (Except maybe as a second or third degree – Hi Kate and Charlie!)

What I mean is, yeah, sure there are things you can do to increase your chances of success. Among them are trying to identify an in-demand skill, (or pursuing the thing that won’t leave you alone) learn the craft as best you can, and try and try and try again.

Does this guarantee you will succeed? Ah!

At some point I found myself in the bar of a hotel with a bunch of seasoned pros (in my field this means you’ve had a lot of vinegar poured on you.)

I thought at the time – the Shakespeare series having tanked among other reasons because of 9/11 a month before release – that I had the saddest story of all. Ah! Not even close.

Oh, sure a lot of the stories were publisher malfeasance, but find any pro who is not a bestseller 20 years in, and you’ll hear amusing/sad stories about how weird things hit each of their books/series. And you know, now that I’m one, I could tell you my own. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a plague of locusts, but I did hear of warehouses flooded by Sandy (Our first set of contributor copies for AFGM had suspicious stains and smelled funny.)

Look – in stories the plucky character often makes good. (Unless you’re reading gray goo and why would you do that?) But that’s because stories are designed to guide you in the path of the highest likelihood of success. They’re a guide, not a promise.

Stories are an ordered system. The world is a chaotic system.

You can do everything right, correct your course, and yet never succeed at your ultimate goal, particularly if it’s influenced by factors as wholly out of your control as “being a bestseller.” (Guys, the NYT doesn’t even share that formula.) Or “having eleven kids.” You can do everything right and still fail epically.

So, what does that mean? That we should read and write gray goo and consign ourselves to hopelessness?

Uh… no. Look, the stories are a guide and are supposed to show what is possible if you cultivate certain virtues. And if you do cultivate those virtues (mostly preparation, hard work, persistence) EVENTUALLY you’ll have SOME success. In writing you might very well make a decent middle class income, eventually. Will you be a bestseller? Who knows? That’s out of your hands, and you shouldn’t feel guilty if you aren’t. You should aim for it, and do the best you can, and then be happy with each step towards it, even if you never reach it.

Because in life, yeah, it’s the journey – it’s all we have. The destination is rather final for all of us.

“I did everything right. Why can’t I make it?” Maybe you haven’t tried hard enough. Try again tomorrow. Or do find something else to do, but make sure you’re not quitting everything as soon as it gets a little tough. No one has ever succeeded without setbacks.

Everything worth doing is worth failing at a few times before you finally get it right.

You’re not perfect, neither is the world. In the intersection of the two, there’s some terrible stuff that happens, but also surprises of unexpected beauty. (If I hadn’t been stupid enough to write a bunch of short stories attempting to break in, I’d never have learned to start a story fast.)

Roll with it. Cherish the success, but don’t believe you must have supreme success or be an utter failure. There’s gradations in between.

It’s where most of us live.

And when you fail, learn something from it, so next time you can fail higher up.  If you keep failing upward you might, to your surprise, find yourself a success.

166 thoughts on “Failing Upwards

  1. Back when I was an undergraduate, I really wanted be a physics major. However, I didn’t know whether or not it would help me land a job. A friend of mine, who owned a commercial lighting business (and had majored in early childhood education) gave me the following advice:

    “Study what you love. You’ll pour your heart and soul into it and you’ll excel academically.
    But be sure to pick up some marketable skills along the way.”

    I took that advice to heart and it worked out pretty well for me. I’ve been able to stay ahead of the knife and remain employed while changing careers several times BECAUSE I had a decent number of transferable skills. Hopefully my children will learn this from me.

    1. Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Schrewl of the Art Institute of Chicago.

      Senior Linux Administrator.

        1. Nuclear engineer here. I started working on nuclear power plants. After 3 Mile Island I switched to rocket engines and stayed for almost 30 years. There’s nothing quite like seeing an engine that you helped develop successfully blow out flame and fumes out where it’s supposed to. Now I’m retired and spend too much time reading SF instead of working down my honey do list.

    2. My Father grew up in Denver, during the depression. He was a four eyed geek, and knew it, and consequently desperately wanted to get the hell out of Colorado (good school for mining engineers, not so much for anything else). He busted his butt and got scholarship offers from Harvard and Princeton. Went to Princeton (as WWII was breaking out), majored in Physics (the hot science of the day), and discovered to his horror that he lacked the talent to be good at it. He could grind through the math involved, but lacked the kind of imagination that allowed the good students to visualize the experiments.

      What to do? Changing majors was not encouraged (“there’s a War on, you know”) and he had signed an agreement with the War Department to graduate with a BS in physics, on the understanding that they wouldn’t draft him until then.

      He spent his War Service at Oak Ridge Tenn., refining uranium for the Manhattan Project. He then got his Masters in Physics (part of the agreement), and was facing the prospect of going for a PhD in a discipline in which he would never be anything better than mediocre, when he stumbled on one of the first History of Science programs in the world.

      He never looked back, and spent his working life doing something he flat out loved.

      Lesson? Be realistic about what your options are, but keep your eyes open, I guess.

    3. B.S. Industrial Technology, Electronics & Computer Technology.

      So far I’ve been a Biomedical Engineer (Fixed anything electronic in a hospital), and a Computer Technician (any computer, network, or database problem). Those are sort of what I trained for but then I got one of those funny practical degrees that people don’t much go for anymore

  2. Good advice.
    I had a huge laundry list of things in my teens with timelines. X by such a time, Y shortly thereafter.
    A friend once told me, Man plans, God laughs” and a never truer saying was ever said. Now in my 50s, I look back and find that the things I did not do I don’t miss and the things that I did accomplish were serendipitous. I seized at whatever opportunity came along, took risks, failed, failed, succeeded, etc.
    In the end, life is good. The only regret one should have is not doing something. Life is a journey, not a destination.

  3. Elven kids? (I swear, I read it that way at first.)

    BSN: that wasn’t even my question. (I know, I know: it’s NOT all about me, but work with me, here.) I asked – about the guy whose verifiably bad work (verified by Lab Ted’s review) is selling “better than mine,” (for various values of “mine”) – not what am **I** doing wrong, but what is HE doing RIGHT? Realizing there can never be a one-true-path prescription, but some hints might be nice. If you’re not at the cusp of giving up.

    I like to remind myself that losers are those who quit before they’ve won. Not quite plucky underdorg, but…


    1. I thought about that writer, and I think the answer is he’s selling to a completely different audience–the people who get all their knowledge of things military from cheesy Hollywood movies and never realize the glaring idiocy contained therein. And, sadly, there are more of them then there are of us (us=those who understand the chain of command is not made of daisies). He uses tropes well-established by TV shows (holodeck equivalents, aliens that can mate with humans). The cover is clear and establishes the genre and premise (existing Earth tech, super spaceship). The blurb is…not stellar, but not wretched either. And you can’t get much more clear than the title. All these things work positively in luring the innocent reader closer and closer to the point where money is exchanged for services 😉

      Granted, the service here is a heaping serving of, er, compostable material, but some people also choose to go out in public wearing lime polyester doubleknit.I try REALLY HARD not to judge.

      When you say “sells better”, is this based on ranking, or on reviews? I read some of them, and the command of English was …curious. Consider the possibility they fail the Turing test. Or that money was exchanged for services 😀

      1. Considering I’ve sold in ten months xx copies and there are xx+xxx reviews of this guy’s stuff on Amazon, yeah. It’s a pretty good guess.


    2. Mark, I do know the feeling. I’m curious, though: I go to other writers who are garnering more success than I am, and ask, “What are you doing to get that?” and 9 times out of 10 what they’re doing is what I’ve already tried that didn’t work. And usually the remaining 1 time is something that isn’t applicable to me, or my work. Do you find that so, also?

      1. Yeah, Stephanie. I get that. But I keep listening to what everybody says, with diminishing returns. Which I guess is to be expected. Any time you get into a new field of learning or endeavor, there’s a steep learning curve at first, then it plateaus. I like to think the resultant tiny nuggets of information each have greater value-per-weight, but I’m wary of fooling myself with wishful thinking.

        Another thing that happens is some piece of — no doubt cogent — advice will run counter to what I’m willing to do. And I have to sometimes tell myself I either accept the advice or accept that there’s a cost for being lazy or reluctant when it comes to enterprise.


      1. Fortunately mine don’t seem to take after the elven side. I come from giant stock. (Me and Larry Correia, but I think his is purer 😉 ) It shows in the boys.

  4. IMO there are two Big Mistakes you can make when “success eludes you” (& I’ve made them).

    First, fall down in the dumps about it.

    Second, think that there’s a “conspiracy against you”.

    Obviously, the first prevents you from changing what you can change.

    While, the second can likely result in you creating enemies were none existed before or at least get the reasonable reaction in others “of why should I deal with your paranoia”.

    1. I choose to own my failures. If the primary reason for my lack of success in myself, I can look at things and make changes. (I’m not talking about publishing here.)

      Yes, the challenge presented by Obama’s influence on the economy. There are people who have been more successful than I in this economy, who are that way because they have made different choices.

    2. Unless it is computer failure. That is a conspiracy. The computer IS out to get you, and I think they get points for how frustrated they can make the user, and compare their scores via a sooper secret internet.

      1. This is why I like to hang the guts of a deceased computer from a ceiling hook in the computer lab and tell the others “this could be you.” You can’t show fear, they sense that. They can also sense that it is Friday close to quitting time and you have a hot date, too. Damn computers.

          1. Make up a brochure for the “Sledgehammer of the Month Club” and leave it on the floor of the garage.

            1. Kinda like the Far Side (PBUH) about the farmer motivating his layers by walking around with an ax and humming the Cambell’s Soup jingle. *evil grin*

      2. Well, of course they do. The ones that I’m not allowed to threaten, like the ones at the grocery store, do it to me all the time.

  5. I look at the number of authors I read that were considered ‘failures’ in their day that made a living at it. That’s all I want – to put some foldable green acclaim in my wallet. I’ve discussed it with the alpha reader, and we both agree hang the best seller and the awards. I guess I’m unusual in that I don’t see the acclaim of my peers as more important than the money of my readers.

      1. I’ve also made the mistake of joining a couple of other “authors” groups on FB where the biggest lament is “I don’t have an agent” or “I don’t have a trad pub contract”. When you question why giving 70-85% of your income away is a good thing, you get blank stares and treated like you don’t get the rules of the club.

        1. You don’t. What THEY want are the markers – Agent, contract. That, to them, means they’re a success. It’s not sales that count – it’s about whether they’ve got the markers they want to display to their peers.

          I’ll take a 1099 any day.

          1. Something I learned in the dotcom boom is that paying taxes, while irritating, is proof of success. If you never pay taxes on what you wroked on then you wasted your time or worked on a hobby.

            Many of us paper dotcom millionnaires thought we’d earned a huge reward and didn’t see why the government should take thet cut. As a result we rode our stock options into worthlessness.

            1. I had a few of those type of options. The company I was with was in talks to get purchased by a major company for some obscene multiple when the crash happened and they stopped all purchases. The talks never resumed and the options became so much worthless paper.

                1. I always liked the Nortel shares as toilet paper cartoon. As a former Nortel employee that felt just right. Sadly I never got any actual physical Nortel stock certificates so I could never do it personally

                2. Actually, I sold my stock certificate (for Inacom) on Ebay. Got $20 for it, from an economics teacher who wanted it as a teaching tool.

                  Those 800 shares weren’t COMPLETELY worthless!

                1. It wasn’t that bad, I saw the writing on the wall and got a consulting job about 6 months before the company folded. It helped pay the bills until I could find another job. I’ve been out of work for a total of 1 day my adult life not counting a 2 month layoff at my current job when the owner and my manager were having “issues” and I got stuck in between.

                  1. Ah. I just wondered if you worked for the same company I did, because that story is basically what happened to us.

                    I survived the purge and worked there another 3 years.

                    I’ve been out of work a lot, but it was usually because I got fed up and left before finding another job.

                  2. One of the problems is that they don’t teach people in college how to properly job hunt. You don’t just apply for the jobs that fit your skill set you apply for anything and everything you think you can do. Surprisingly that method brings in the interviews and job offers. The week after I switched methods of job hunting I got the interview for my current job and then over the next 2 months received 2 more job offers and lots and lots of interview requests. I could kick myself hard. I spent 14 months hunting and applying and couldn’t get a single job offer. But once I quite trying for that perfect match to what I thought my skill set was I got a job and multiple offers and interview offers. ::shrug::

                2. I was a manager at a company with a layoff scheduled for the morning of 9/11. Being the first layoff I had to run (and keep secret from my team), I hadn’t slept really well the night before and I was also driving in early. I had the dictated-from-above layoff list for people who reported to me, plus my approved script detailing what I was allowed to say, all final as of the day before.

                  I heard about the attacks on the radio on my drive in, and as the shock spread, higher ups decided that publishing the mandatory press release that afternoon would lead to news reports long the lines of “…and in other news, apparently some insensitive company laid off over a thousand people today…” would look inordinately bad, so they passed the word that there would be a delay, which in the end turned out to be about a week.

                  I lasted through one more round of layoff before I got RIFed about a year and half later.

                  I liked managing people and was pretty good at it, but doing layoffs convinced me I was better off as an individual contributor.

        2. Perception……… Having been part of a writing group for a while, and having one of the “recognized authors” offer the services of his agent, I can tell you that if all you’ve been exposed to is trad publishing and the agency world, that’s all you’re going to consider.

          Your perception of the indie world is going to be colored by your experience and surroundings……..

        3. “When you question why giving 70-85% of your income away is a good thing, you get blank stares and treated like you don’t get the rules of the club.”

          This last weekend at our con I overheard a multiple award winning quite famous author going on a bit about “those people”… which is why I will not name names as it’s at least somewhat possible that the author did not mean what I thought was meant. Said Author succeeded under the old system, and succeeded spectacularly, and that’s saying something I think. It wasn’t easy to do. The complaint about “those people” was that they just didn’t want to put the work in. They didn’t want to do their hours. They didn’t want to pay their dues. They just wanted to magically be an “author” and wanted to think that it was the same thing as what this author was.

          I suppose that this is true for some individuals (which again, is why I’m not naming names… said Author may have been thinking specifically of people who really don’t want to put in the hard work.) In general terms, though, wanting to do an end-run around the people who will take 70-85% of whatever your novels earn, is not proof of “not wanting to do the hard work.”

          I also spent some time talking to a local author who started his own publishing imprint. He’s got a table in the *sniff* dealer room and a number of books that he’s written. I’ve been acquainted with him for years. I’ve never seen him on a panel or hobnobbing with the “real” authors. I’m going to assume that he’s fully digital these days but he started right on the cusp of that and does print runs in paper.

          Is he shunned by the traditional sorts? I’ve got no proof of it, just what I see. Is he *lazy* and looking for the easy route to avoid putting in the hard work and putting in his hours and his time? Oh, certainly not. We talked about his publishing business. He pays for professional artwork, professional design, professional editing (both the editing and copy-editing sorts) and estimates that each book is $5K cash up front.

          It’s entirely possible that there was no market for what he writes *within* the traditional publishing structure. Going around that to find a market directly is not *laziness*.

          1. Pretty much what I have been able to do, in a local way – both as a writer and in taking on a Teeny Publishing Bidness. I wish that sales of my books would recover from the summer slump … but I have enough local clients to shepherd through the wilds of independent/subsidy publishing.
            I’d like to think that Teeny Publishing Bidnesses like mine are the nimble proto-rodents, nipping at the heels of the enormous and staggering dinosaurs of publishing. Another half-decade will tell, I think.

          2. > The complaint about “those people” was that they just didn’t want to put the work in. They didn’t want to do their hours. They didn’t want to pay their dues. They just wanted to magically be an “author” and wanted to think that it was the same thing as what this author was.<
            The thing is, "putting the work in" nowadays means spending several years collecting rejection form letters until someone deigns to allow you to sign over all your rights for a measly amount of money in return for whatever crappy cover they decide to use without your input and the right to market your books on your own dime so that bookstores order a couple of copies that'll end up spine-out on some bookshelf for 6 weeks before they get shipped back to the publisher so your advance never earns out…
            Okay, the above is a worst-case scenario, but by no means a rare event. There is also the possibility that what you're writing is something that will have limited appeal, which wouldn't be worth doing by a trad publisher but which nowadays can reach that niche market.
            And indie publishing is no golden ticket, either. If your book doesn't find an audience, you'll sell 12 copies on month one and the book will vanish into the 1-million+ Amazon Rank limbo, never to be heard from again. But at least you get the chance to impress the readers, and as it turns out there are a lot of readers willing to do their own gate-keeping (between reviews and the chance to read a decent sample of the book for free, it's pretty easy to separate the wheat from the chaff).

            1. Pretty much … yeah.
              That’s what it is, being an indy-writer. The good thing – is that your books will be there pretty much forever. Or at least as long as you are paying the tiny fee to keep them in the Ingram general catalog.
              In one of the indy-author groups that I participated in, the consensus was that good word-of-mouth about a book would take about five years to start paying off. I’d have to admit that this may be correct – my first novel has been out there since 2007, and it seems to sell pretty well. I don’t do much active marketing for it any more, since it seems to just go chugging along.

        4. “I don’t have an Agent” or “I don’t have a contract” is not a lament, it’s an external excuse for failure. Take that away from them by suggesting they go indy puts the onus on them to succeed or fail on their own, and they don’ wanna.

          Probably some of those “Writers” haven’t finished a thing. They just want to live the “Writer Lifestyle” (as they imagine it, not as it is).

      2. Y’know, writers are a neurotic bunch, apparently. I simply don’t know many people in normal industry who worry about awards, except as something to put in an advertisement.

        1. Wayne, it’s all about being accepted. In the normal world, getting hired is what makes you part of the in-group (for a given value, YMMV, etc, etc), while in traditional publishing, proximity to the gatekeepers is what determines your worth. So if your editor calls you instead of your agent, that’s a sign. If you get your book tour paid for, that’s another. If you get escorted into the best parties (the ones with all the “right” people) at the literary cons – WorldCon, World Fantasy, Book Expo, etc. – that’s a HUGE sign. Of course, since most writers never really left middle school, at least emotionally, there’s the sneaking dread that it’ll all come crashing down with a single joke, or a cutting remark. Which explains a lot of the behavior in publishing.

          1. Sorry – I was comparing to business owners. I just didn’t give you that important little tidbit of information. I can’t imagine why you didn’t know… 😉

            1. The problem is that they’re not thinking like business owners. They’re thinking like employees. Employees do want awards: those awards confirm their value. Now some writers make a conscious choice to be employees, and I don’t fault them. Not everyone is cut out to be self-employed, and not all writers are cut out to be full-blown indie. If that’s you, find a small-to-medium sized press that treats its authors right and gives a good percentage on sales. Better yet, find a couple of them. I know they exist, I’ve encountered some here in Utah. You won’t make as much, but you won’t have as much to worry about either. But make that a choice with full awareness of the trade-offs, don’t just go along because that’s what’s expected of you. Screw that noise!

    1. I like foldable green acclaim myself … and every book that I put out there, or every collection of blog-posts made into an e-book gets me a teensy bit more of it. And of course – it could be the VERY NEXT BOOK that turns out to be a big hit, which would be amazingly ironic, as it is the one that began as a joking suggestion to re-vamp a certain Western adventure series whose latest movie iteration was a resounding flopperoo…
      At this point, my main source is still the Tiny Publishing Bidness, which is writing of a sort (and editing, formatting, etc) and congruent with writing my own books.

        1. Well, I just might write an adventure for the next collection of Lone Star Sons involving a vampire … or a pretend vampire – the chupacabra! Yes, there would be a mysterious series of blood-drained animals and everyone would be freaking out …

          The first series of six adventures is going out to the alpha readers this very week. Only took me as many months to write them, which is pretty good for me!

          1. Weird West stories have a solid following. Six-gun Cthulhoids make for a lot of fun. Need to get some of that going, myself. One day, after I’ve finished all the current projects.

  6. One story published in 20 years.

    Sounds terrible, but it isn’t, because part of that time was spent on the trunk novel, part of it on writing a full-length play, and most of it on the WIP which I’m aiming to publish Book 1 of in October. And much eaten up by children and CFS and lack of mobility – but who cares? There is progress, I’m having a ball, and that’s what counts.

    1. I lived a large part of my life before I started writing, and have to accept that I was modestly successful in it. My Air Force career wasn’t all sweetness and light, but I met a huge number of very interesting people, made E-7, saw a very large part of this world (in person, not just in reconnaissance imagery), supported myself and our children, and earned a decent retirement income. My computer tech career was shorter, but that was a medical problem, not my lack of skill or the company’s profits. I was being groomed for greater responsibility… whatever that meant.

      Once I could no longer work in a typical work environment for my specialty, I decided to try writing — something I’ve always meant to do, but never got a roundtuit. Since then, I’ve written ten novels and have eight of them for sale on Amazon and B&N. I don’t make a lot of money, but I’ve gotten a small check every month ever since Amazon began paying monthly. I know I have two major problems with my writing — I’m not the world’s best editor, and my covers are LOUSY! Still, I have ten more books in the works, and I come up with a new idea every week. I’m also willing to help anyone who asks for it, but my advice is usually only as good as it costs, which is nothing. I DO enjoy hanging out with the rest of you, especially Sarah and several of the other contributors.

  7. My gut response to this was “Quit . . . writing? If you are a writer, HOW do you quit writing?” If you CAN quit perhaps it wasn’t really what you were supposed to do anyway.

    1. Of course, you can quit writing. Whether you can quit writing and remain sane might be a question.

      Then there’s the just dabbling enough to remain sane (or a reasonable facsimile thereof), but not doing anything else with it. That won’t get you anywhere further, either.

      1. I’ve considered just writing for myself, and forget the rewrites, the editing, typo hunts, polish, and format . . . But there’s something very satisfying in a completed project. And enough sales to be a bit of a pat on the back, even if, at this point, I couldn’t support myself. But quit writing? Nope.

        1. If you can quit, you should – no, that’s what a lot of my fave writers did, and for some of them it was terminal. It is a common thing said by writers wishing to get rid of competition or newbies, though.

          1. >f you can quit, you should – no, that’s what a lot of my fave writers did, and for some of them it was terminal. It is a common thing said by writers wishing to get rid of competition or newbies, though.

            It’s a combination of well-meaning advice, an attempt to kill competition as you say, and a bit of a test, IMHO. I think most writers write because they can’t stop; for me it’s certainly been a compulsion from age 6, when I wrote my (lavishly illustrated, lol) first short story. It certainly is not a career path with high prospects, as opposed to, say, plumbing or carpentry. Things have gotten better thanks to e-publishing, but earning a living through writing still remains an iffy thing. It’s more of a vocation than a career.
            So in that sense, yes, if you can quit, do it. If you can’t quit, you’re a writer and you won’t be happy doing anything else.

            1. I can’t not *create*.

              This is what really really bugs me about the “if you can quit, you should” thing. I can quit *anything* because there is always some other thing to do instead. Will I ever stop creating stories in my head? Will I ever stop thinking of what the movie should have been instead? Do I need to write the story down with electrons or ink? No. It still exists even if no one else can see it.

              If someone said to me “if you can stop writing, you should” and I actually believed them, it would all be over.

              1. yes — I CAN stop writing, but I’ll have to learn to draw really well, or I’ll do experimental cooking, or I’ll start sewing costumes. Given my various obsessions Dan says writing is CHEAPER.

              2. I know what you mean. I went a good year or two without setting a word to paper, and I still would find myself thinking about plot lines and characters, so in effect i was writing in my head. I can’t stop my brain from wandering off into imaginary worlds and following the deeds of made up people.

    2. I once started off a conversation by telling somebody I’d written a book but I wasn’t a writer. She looked at me oddly and asked how that worked. The answer is that I’m a storyteller, and books are actually my least likely method of telling a story. (Poetry and songwriting are my primary outlets.)

      As to why I’ve been sitting on this book for several years now, well, that’s basically a long and sordid story of continually getting distracted.

  8. I have the same reaction as kywrite– I have gone through despair and the everyone is against me (if it is true, then you are not paranoid *wink), but I write faster when the crisis has lost its immediacy. When I don’t have a crisis, it takes time to write novels etc. Poems not so hard for me– It turns out that I like the challenge– even when I was writing more poetry, I was looking for harder and harder forms to write. At my peak (before chemo), I started looking to story to get my challenges. Now I’d like to make enough to supplement my soon to be diminished income. Maybe I’m not the greatest story writer out there. I hope to be decent… but it is hard to know if I am writing a good story or not. It looks good to me. I had fun writing it. I hoped that someone else would enjoy reading it.

    But in the end, if I don’t write something (story, poetry), this need will come out in other ways, usually through nightmares.

  9. After I flunked out of college at 19 (health issues- I had a severe case of testosterone poisoning) and went in the Marine Corps, knew I “wasn’t doing everything I was supposed to”. I was supposed to have gotten my BS/MS/PhD in Math and become the next big name in theoretical physics. As it was, the Corps taught me the rudiments of a trade (Quality Control) and I hustled jobs in that area. The trick is to learn what your boss does, and learn how to do it. Then do it for him when he is busy, and get it on your resume. So each job I had was at a bit higher level. I got a generic degree online when the lack of a degree became an issue (BA in Management, get more generic that that, I dare you, but it gets me passed the HR gatekeepers). So here I am 45 years later at the top of my field. How do you succeed? Just pick a direction, and keep taking steps in that direction.

  10. Please hit the gif box again! That last one you did made me laugh so hard I started to tear up…

    1. I have two thoughts on this:
      1. I was going to say the same thing, then I saw that SPQR is taking names…
      2. Have you lost your marbles?

  11. In order to succeed as a writer you have to have something to say that people want to read. Writing crap won’t typically get you there (see special case below) no matter how much of it you shovel out. As is the case in just about any business your measure of success is a positive cash flow. You create a product that folks are willing to pay money for and you keep putting more of it out there and gee whiz you’re successful. Bills paid, roof over head, check.
    What Amazon has done is eliminate the gatekeepers. You now just have to please the readers themselves, not a chain of first readers, editors, and publishers each with their own internal bias.
    But then there is that whole best seller thing. IMHO chance plays the biggest role, or God playing his practical jokes. Murphy is after all one of His aspects. To have a best selling book you must come up with some unique kernel of an idea or theme which then must resonate with the buying public. Go viral if you will. That is a phenomenon that no one has been able to control. Any competent writer with something interesting to say and persistence will make a decent living. A crap writer with an idea that resonates with the public will make a killing. Forgive me, but 50 Shades comes to mind as the perfect example. Unfair? Absolutely. God’s little joke, remember.
    Guess my point is that all you can really do is your best job, keep plugging away, and enjoy the ride. If super star best seller status is going to come your way you’re already putting yourself in its path, but there are absolutely not guarantees if and when it will strike.

  12. I majored in Computer and Systems Engineering, and while I’m sticking to the software side, it did do quite a bit of that.

    In online discussions about what degrees are best for writers, I say, “A degree in which you can earn a living without it draining all the energy you need for writing.”

    1. Yup. Me too.

      Mind you for most of career in computing I have used next to none of my degree in it. But it has come in handy enough that I’m glad I did that instead of maths.

      Having said that, the most useful skill in the computing world is troubleshooting and you can learn that just as well fixing cars or plumbing as debugging programs. And such a skill is absolutely not taught directly in most CS courses.

      I have a number of friends anf colleagues who I respect greatly and who have no degree at all. Sadly it seems like this is harder and harder to manage. Almost everyone in their 20s seems to have a degree and it doesn’t help in the slightest IMO.

    2. Computer Science degree here. Guess how many times I’ve written code professionally? Other than SQL queries (and I didn’t learn that in college), twice in a 20+ year IT career (and over 14 years since getting my BS in CS). I’ve always been a hardware guy, the piece of paper has helped me get a couple of interviews, but the experience carries more weight.

      Oh, and I really would not recommend IT for a job that leaves you with enough energy to write as well. My current position is the exception to the rule, but normally IT is so overworked, there just is nothing left at the end of the day…assuming you actually get to go home and don’t have to stay for 84 hours straight.

      1. …the piece of paper has helped me get a couple of interviews, but the experience carries more weight.

        Wow. It never did for me. After 15 years of crap work, I finally got a job on a helpdesk. After 7 years, I got the opportunity to do Development for them, but after the job went away, I had a really hard time getting a job without having the piece of paper.

        1. You do not need Statistics 101 to qualify as a judge. That’s why you need the paper. No single act would change the country more for the better than requiring that.

    3. Electrical Engineering, now in software test. But the best advice I’d had, and given others, is to have more than one arrow in your quiver: I can also wire houses, rebuild auto engines – stuff that doesn’t necessarily get hit by the same economic cycles that make engineering jobs hard to find.

  13. How many entrepreneurs have failed with multiple businesses and started over and made another fortune? If you are doing something you enjoy then success is icing on the cake. It can also help pay the bills, but may actually only allow an occasional trip to Applebee’s (to borrow from LC’s author ranking).

  14. Don’t worry dear. Just spend all your parent’s money getting that Medieval Gender Studies major and everything will fall into your lap. And if it doesn’t, then it’s the fault of the heteronormative patriarchal hegemonic hierarchy conspiring to keep you down.

      1. Fries? FRIES? I’ll have you know, that I have a degree in Medieval Gender Studies, and I don’t need your lousy, two-bit McJob, thank you very much!

          1. “Hegemony” is one of those words only SF writers and SJWs use. And the Ancient Greeks, I suppose, but they’re not around anymore.

            1. They choked on them big words. Didn’t leave them enough air, you see. That’s why ancient Greeks aren’t around anymore. (Nods sagely, then runs like the wind. Canadian carp-flingers have fearsome wrist action.)

              1. “Latin is a dead language,
                As dead as dead can be.
                It killed the mighty Romans
                And now it’s killing me.”

                Moldy when my 80 year old mother passed it to me at 6, but…..

            2. Picking a nit…
              Not entirely true. It’s also used by fraternal “Greek” organisations. And military strategists/historians.
              Of course, not in the same context.

        1. Okay, got it, no fries.

          I’ll have a vente half-caf soy latte.

          (Ugh. Now I need to go make a pot of real coffee for even joking about that last sentence)

          1. “In other news, NASA has announced their new Medieval Gender Studies Initiative . . . “

          2. What’s depressing is back in the early 1990s we made fun of the Wymyn’s Studies and Hyphenated-Studies grads, saying all they could do was work in a bookstore. Most of them are now in public policy or high $$ activist jobs and government slots (but I repeat myself). Grrrrrrr.

              1. (because I can’t get over how stupid this ‘doctor’ is) — they’re TRYING REALLY REALLY HARD NOW.


                Planting spuds and tomatoes is RACISS NOW! Somehow.

                How has this moron not gotten hit by a bus? (actually, that’s a question applicable to the SJWs. Anyone remember the ‘I have faith in human nature’ idiot who set her kid on train tracks during the OWS mass stupidity? Guess what, THIS religious, superstitious ‘backward conservative’ believes in SCIENCE, b*tch! PHYSICS TRUMP HUMAN NATURE!)

                Sorry. The stupidity of gardening = racism is making me want to see if England is burning yet, given the flames of abject, unmitigated idiocy that they seem to be encouraging over there…

                1. Oh, dear lord. The stooooopidity, it burns. And the vile-prog necessity of finding raaaaacism in every blessed thing is just horrific. In the sense of slowing down to look at a spectacular wreck on the highway horrific. You’d like to just get away and not to think about it … but everyone in front of you is slowing down to have a good look.

                  1. Declaring things are racist/fascist/sexist is itself a racist/fascist/sexist act. It is abrogation of the privilege of defining others.

                    I can say this because I am quite comfortable with my racism/fascism/etceterism.

                2. It’s the 21st century version of witch hunting. They need to find racists before someone starts accusing _them_ of being racist. A desperate need to establish moral superiority matched with overwhelming self-hatred (most of the racist-hunters are white and/or upper-middle class and they’ve never had any real contact with actual racism).

                3. Sadly, this won’t be the stupidest thing I hear all year. Probably not even this month.

                  1. I know. It’s depressing. It’s like there’s a contest of ‘who’ll hit intellectual rock bottom’ and someone goes “I HAVE A JACKHAMMER!” and then someone else gleefully replies “OH YEAH? I HAVE A PLANETARY DRILL!”

  15. Like J.A. Konrath loves to say: Nobody Owes You a Living. Or a best-seller, or anything. You do the best you can, hope for the best, and be ready to adjust your behavior based on objective reality (i.e., avoiding the madness of doing the same thing expecting a different result).

    I worked in the RPG field for twenty years and made a living (i.e., didn’t need a side job) for maybe six of those years. After my first novel got rejected last year, I went indie, and by month 10 I’m earning enough from Amazon KDP to pay most of my bills. I figure in two-three years I maybe be able to live solely off my writing income. If not, I’ll keep the day job. If I make it big, great. If I crash and burn, I’ll try something else – switch genres, write erotica, whatever works. But hoping that one’s book is going to be a best-seller, and getting upset when it isn’t, is crazy.

    We’re probably living in the best time to be a writer. People don’t have to jump through the multi-year hoops of trad publishing to actually make money (often as much as more as you’re going to get from an advance) from your stuff. I for one feel incredibly grateful to be living the dream 🙂

    1. IMHO there are exactly two advantages to trad/pub: that advance, and a single point of contact for all the types of assistance a writer requires from cover art, to layout, to copy edit, to marketing. When you consider the typical wait time to sell a first novel is measured in at least years, that advance is far from immediate gratification, particularly when the return on indie is measured in weeks or at most months and comes with a much longer duration. Not to mention that the standard publishing contract is remarkable similar to selling your soul for a mess of pottage. And all those other services can easily be bought by the yard, better so since the author retains full control and can pick and chose as necessary.
      Not to be a broken record, but someone really needs to start up a clearing house for indie author support services. If I wasn’t old and tired I would do it myself.

      1. Pretty much. Advances are great, but given that they have been getting smaller and smaller (I hear $3K is the new standard for a first-time author) and that they are spread over a year or more between contract signing and publication, it’s not really all that great. Throw in the fact that most books don’t earn out even those paltry advances, and their attraction diminishes radically.
        Editing, cover art and access to the bookstore chains are the pillars or trad publishing. Like you said, the former two can be hired independently (I’ve been cheap and done the covers by myself so far, which probably cost me sales, but I did shell out $$ for copy editing, although with mixed results).
        I think the availability of independent services is only going to increase in the coming years. There will definitely be a need for some form of vetting service to separate the con-men from the actually helpful companies. That’s the kind of thing I’d hope to see from, say, a writer’s guild like SFWA, should they ever deign to notice indies as anything other than something they scrape off their shoes…

      2. I had a thought the other day. (Hey, I get them occasionally.) What if a Guild of Independent Writers was set up. People pay dues to support a staff that keeps track of vendors (editors, cover artists, etc) and creates contract templates for the Amazons of the world. A way to fund it would be having someone like Our Esteemed Hostess getting a collection of short stories and editing them then putting it out for e-distribution. (Something like the Baen short story competition.) The editor gets a cut (say 25%) the rest goes toward maintaining the guild. The writers who make into the collection get exposure.

        People would be able to rate the vendors so they’d be motivated to work. The guild would mediate disputes. Above all else NO POLITICS. This is about writing stories and making money.

        And now you know why I only occasionally get thoughts. They’re weak and die young.

        1. It’s definitely doable and probably profitable as well. In fact if I were idle I’d do it. Unfortunately about the time I first thought of this (~4-5 years ago) I also got offered a job to do something else which is also profitable and does good.

        2. We actually discussed this idea here a couple of years ago. IMAO, the biggest obstacle is that we’re all busy trying to keep our own heads above water, and adding an undertaking that large is just too much. At the very least, that’s my reason for not working on it at the moment.

      3. I actually love the idea of doing this. What’s holding me back is mostly concerns about experience – I have about half a novel to my name, and most of my publishing knowledge comes from lurking around here, the Mad Genius Club, and other places.

        What do you think would be needed to put a decent clearing house/support service deal together?

        1. Organizational skills, time, a modicum of resources, and either contacts in the necessary areas of expertise or the ability to grow them as things develop. I’m picturing a sort of mashup of Angie’s List and Linkedin.

        2. Administrator-type person, rather than a creator-type person, with time to do it at the head. And experience, or at least exposure to other peoples’ relevant experience.

        3. ‘Nother idea; maybe has been well-discussed, don’t know, but it could be another thing the clearing house could do: SF world licensing. Some writers share the worlds (universes) they’ve built, by request or otherwise, sometimes while they’re still writing in that series, more often after the series has come to an end. From a reader’s viewpoint, if the universe was well-built, more stories in it are very desirable. Would their be a market in licenses to use (so the originator can keep whatever degree of control of quality or evolution of the original concept)? Would this be done more if newer/other writers knew that a well-made universe was available, and under what conditions?

    2. BTW, thanks for GURPS: Voodoo. It’s one of my favorite supplements. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of it over the years.

    1. Please don’t permit the baby to teeth on the gray goo. It may contain toxins.

      Personally, I’m suspicious of the ink. I know they say it’s safe . . .

  16. One thing that makes me crazy is people who are unemployed/failing at life and complaining about it. “I’ve been unemployed for two years and can’t find work.” What have you done to increase your skill set? Have you looked into a volunteer gig to try and build your resume? Have you looked at what jobs are hiring and tried to figure out what you need to get them?

    I was told from a very young age I would be going to the same college several of my siblings went to. When I got older, I realized that going there could lead to a lucrative career. When I got in I did stupid stuff to sabotage myself. Eventually I figured my life out (few things motivate one to get a bachelors like flipping burgers at McDonalds) and ended up as a coder. Every time I’ve changed jobs I started out looking at what skills I needed and worked on adding them. When I got laid off at my last job, I had the resume updated within two hours and out to headhunters right after that. A few people asked me if I was going to take some time off between jobs. Um, no. When I wasn’t applying for jobs or doing interviews I was working on my skill. I’m lucky that the unemployment rate for Java coders in my area is something like 1% so I wasn’t unemployed for long. Good thing, too. My three months pregnant wife freaked out when I told her I was laid off (and developed an appreciation for why I lived like a miser.)

    By and large life isn’t going to be handed to you. You’re going to have to go out and take what you can grab. And it won’t be easy.

    1. > By and large life isn’t going to be handed to you. You’re going to have to go out and take what you can grab. And it won’t be easy.

      This, so much. There’s too many people out there who think success is a human right. I blame the silly participation trophy crap kids have been growing up with. Life doesn’t hand you trophies just for showing up.

    2. Good for you. I’ve watched complainers like the ones you mention sit and bitch while opportunity slides unnoticed past them.
      Like you, whenever I lost a job finding a new one became my full time occupation. I was never without employment for more than a week. Ideal, well paid work, not hardly, but if you have marketable skills there are always jobs gone begging.
      I always recommend that at some point kids work in food service. As you say great incentive to never have to do that again, and it’s very instructive in learning to deal with all sorts of people. Food service, particularly fast food, will tend to give you the impression that there are an inordinate number of pigs and a$$holes in the world however.
      I have at times worked everything from minimum wage to six figure positions and invariably I see those around me living paycheck to paycheck. Their philosophy always seems to be “I want it all, and I want it NOW!” By deferring just a bit of that instant gratification I’ve been able to build multiple revenue streams any one of which is sufficient to cover normal day-to-day living expenses. Right now I’m drawing off three while two more sit and build equity. Never denied myself or my family nice things, we just waited a bit and got them when we could afford to pay cash instead of credit. It is gratifying to see my kids doing the same, and passing that philosophy on to the grandkids.

      1. I always recommend that at some point kids work in food service.

        Also (IMHO) some kind of outdoor, heavy-lifting job such as helping on a farm or construction site. It teaches a lot, even if the only thing it does short term is incent you to get those grades up and hustle so you don’t have to do it for life 🙂

        1. I always hated that Mexican – Manual Labor. He made me get that Engineering degree

              1. I have relatives named Manuel, even if they go by the Portuguese (and inexplicable) nickname “Neca”
                In a world I’ll eventually finish writing books in (and put them up) I have a lot of guys called things like Neca and Erca and Derca. 😛

        2. Years ago an acquaintance of mine had a son who as a high school junior barely passed and was thinking of either finishing school and getting a job or just dropping out and working. He found his son a summer job with a roofing company that specialized in commercial buildings. A big part of that is retaring flat commercial roofs, in the summer, in Alabama.
          The boy finished high school with honors and went on to college, STEM track as I recall, and now works in the aerospace industry.

  17. Looking around our exceedingly well educated acquaintance, I don’t know a single person who works at what they studied in college.

    Well, i do, but it was not supposed to be my primary focus. Computer Science was the addition to be used to support the Math and Physics I intended to make my living from. However, I never got a degree, and it took 15 years to get back to something I studied in college…

    1. My husband works as a data analyst at a company that is one of the big ones (and is nice to work for, as well.) His degree? History, English minor. As to how he got the job… well, back in the day, he got a job working in a warehouse. Eventually he learned the shipping and receiving end. And there came a point when he was applying at a store where there were thousands of applications… and his was the one with the warehouse experience they needed. And he worked his way up from there to the corporate end. (The data analysis is basically managing the shipping to the retail end from the corporate side, but they’re making noises about teaching him to program as well—on their dime.)

      Never underestimate the value of a “blue collar” job.

      1. I have great respect for blue collar jobs. It’s just that I’ve only had one type (and I’ve had three different screen printing jobs, which were the ones I enjoyed – the last one, I would probably still be doing if I hadn’t gotten the helpdesk job) that didn’t make me want to bash my brains out with a ball peen hammer `within 6 months, and usually much less.

              1. Depends on the situation. Before we lost our giant client, my helpdesk job was one long day of answering one call after another, and there were always 10-15 calls in queue. After they left, we had lots of boredom interspersed with dumb people.

  18. Or do find something else to do, but make sure you’re not quitting everything as soon as it gets a little tough.

    THIS. I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to write (approximately) this on a board and nail it to someone’s forehead.

    1. That’s what pocket soldering irons are for…..

      Why, yes, I am a misanthrope. Does it show?

  19. John Wayne: “Life’s hard. It’s even harder when you’re stupid.”

  20. “Look, the stories are a guide and are supposed to show what is possible if you cultivate certain virtues. And if you do cultivate those virtues (mostly preparation, hard work, persistence) EVENTUALLY you’ll have SOME success”

    One notes that stories where you don’t have initial failure tend to be bad.

  21. back when I worked in the shops as a machinist I once was laid off and stopped at a few shops on the way home. The owner is usually there long after the help goes home. I got home and told my wife I got laid off today but I start a new job tomorrow.
    I guess I was spoiled with writing because I sold the first short story I ever tried to write to the first place it was submitted.
    I had NO expectations of what I wanted to make. I figured anything I got was gravy. The gravy has been pretty nice lately. I’m not counting on it being that way a year from now – certainly not automatically.

  22. To quote the philosopher Justin Sullivan:
    “So all I wanted in the end
    Was world domination and a whole lot of money to spend
    Everything I touch, everything I see, fame and fortune, immortality
    Well that’s not much to ask, it’s really not
    It’s not much to ask, just the same as anybody else ”

    Many years ago I shared an apartment with the first Green Party politician (I believe) to get elected to office in the US (Matt Harline). He only ever said one non-trivial thing I ever agreed with:

    “There are two ways to get what you want. You can either work harder for more, or you can want less.”

    The problem with many folks today is that they want more than they are willing to work for.

    That Barrista with the degree in Feminist Lit Crit? She *can*, if she does a good job and puts a little effort into it make enough money that she can get a small studio apartment in an unfashionable neighborhood, a cheap computer, internet and buy her books at the used bookstore.

    And guess what? To *most* of the world that would be successful as *hell*. Yeah, she’s got to cook dinner from scratch over a 2 burner stove. One with hot and cold clean running water an arms length away. And the food she’s cooking is (usually) fresh or at least not already growning something else on it. And she doesn’t shiver (much) in winter, nor have to be too horribly uncomfortable in the summer.

    Me? I could probably have done better, but I have a reasonably good job that lets my wife stay home to school the kid. Yeah, I’d love to have a new car a bigger house and a dog, but I’ve got more room than 90% of the world, and my cars run.

    So yeah, partially I worked harder (and smarter), and partially I want a little less than the loving adoration of millions of fans and a millionare lifestyle.

  23. Let’s see . . . I trained as a translator and musician, and got a job flying airplanes. While I was flying airplanes, I was writing and researching history. While I was in grad school, I was writing sci-fi. After grad school, I applied to teach and kept writing. Now I substitute teach (I’m the sub-of-choice at the school), write, do light housekeeping, and some music. And travel translation with history groups. Never exactly what I trained for, but all touching the fringes.

  24. “But that’s because stories are designed to guide you in the path of the highest likelihood of success. ”

    Stories are supposed to entertain and amuse you. Beyond that, they can do some good by educating your sentiments, showing you that courage and hard work and patience are admirable. But as intellectual instruction, they tend to be a little weak. It’s possible, but it’s certainly not necessary.

    1. I meant historically. It could be argued that story telling is a tradition in all human populations because it confers an advantage. Sorry, I can’t “unpack” every thought or the essays would be even longer.

  25. Maybe it is time for this quote from my younger son’s hero, Michael Jordon: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

  26. At some point I found myself in the bar of a hotel with a bunch of seasoned pros (in my field this means you’ve had a lot of vinegar poured on you.)

    Cheap bar.

  27. I earned two STEM degrees, worked in biology for 5 years, got my teaching certification at 30, worked as a sub (long and short term) for 9 years, got married, had two kids, and then finally got a permanent position the year I turned 39. I love teaching, and so glad I went back for the certification and for sticking it out.

  28. But I’m a special snowflake! And I’m entitled to simper!

    (OK, OK, I chose the “want less” option.)

  29. Sarah, I have been incredibly fortunate in that I got bachelor’s in Accounting / Information Systems, got a job developing computerized accounting systems in various fashions, and have made a reasonable living at it for 30 years. I would have probably done better if I had been more willing to move / change jobs, but so far, I’ve managed to support myself, a wife, and two canine kids. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep doing it until they bury me. Some days that looks more likely than others…. but I really can’t kick too much.

  30. (I wrote this down on a notepad and … got distracted by RL stuff. So this is late. I’m sorry ^^;;;; )

    for an indie to set out to be a bestseller is an unrealistic goal, since “bestseller” is a very specific thing that necessitates being stocked in the right bookstores and selling at the right velocity. You can sell very well and make a lot of money without ever being one of the recognized bestseller lists.

    They weep and whimper because they forget this rather important adage:

    “Its the game that is important, money is just a way of keeping score ~ Prince Kheldar (Of The Belgariad/The Malloreon fame)”

    The highest form of praise for me will be “Write more please so you can take more of my money!” and “I like your story! I’m getting your other books in the series!”

    And I’ll stop writing when I die! There’re too many stories to be told to stop!!!!!

    1. The highest form of praise for me will be “Write more please so you can take more of my money!” and “I like your story! I’m getting your other books in the series!”

      Or when you say you’re planning a new novel in a series and get interrupted by “Shut up and take my money!”?

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