Friday, September 17, 2010

Aside: My Multi-faceted (Bi-polar?) Writing Career

For anyone following this blog or my little writing steps, you may or may not have noticed my divergent publication paths.  On one hand, there are the short stories I've sold to the mainstream horror/speculative fiction market, my Hiram Grange novella, and my two stints as editor; one with Shroud's upcoming Lovecraftian project The Terror at Miskatonic Falls and most recently, Shroud's Halloween Issue.

On the other hand, I've sold six non-fiction "slice of life" stories to the inspirational market, to collections published by Tyndale, Bethany House, and Guideposts. 

Wow.  That's quite a...diverse publication list.

It happened by accident (or maybe not).  About three years ago, when I started out, I had no idea where I wanted to be published.  I was a Christian maturing in my faith, but also an obsessive reader who didn't really read much Christian fiction.  Still, I wanted to test all the waters, see where I really belonged.  

I sold my first story to The Midnight Diner: Volume 1. Now, even though they're a faith-based publication, I don't consider them "Christian".  They're an R-rated anthology that's not affiliated with anyone.  Around the same time, I received a heads-up for a collection looking for stories about how personal decisions - based on faith - had changed the course of people's lives.  

Since the story of how I met my wife totally fit this, I thought: "What the heck? Why not?"  It was short - 2, 000 words max - and paid pretty decently for that length.  That story became "Right Choice"  and was published in Tyndale's Life Savors collection.   I figured that would be it.

I sold some other stories, then got contracted for Hiram Grange.  But what happened was this: the same editor for the Life Savors collection had added me to her select email group.  So, she started sending me more submission calls.  And you know what?  I answered them.  At first, I thought this: "They're short, pay well, and it's writing. How can I say no?"

However, something else began developing, in my head.  I made the personal decision that (and folks are welcome to disagree with this) my beliefs concerning the craft of fiction were pretty particular.  I didn't want to write my fiction primarily in the Christian market, and any themes I displayed connected to my faith would be subtle and applicable to the general market. 

BUT...the nonfiction stories allowed me a way  to share how God's been good to my family and friends...without an agenda-based, evangelical thrust.  These non-fiction stories I've written are about our lives, and how God has impacted us...not about theology, or arguing why folks should believe as I do.  For example, this most recent Guideposts story relates the tale of how I believe prayer saved my best friend's life after he suffered a horrible accident almost ten years ago.

They're also 'thank-yous' to my family: to my wife and in-laws and parents - for supporting me in my pursuit of a writing career.  They help provide balance, and remind me what's most important, in the midst of Cons and impending book deals and meeting people like Brian Keene and Joe Hill.

Of course, I'll never abandon the dark and strange and weird and freaky stories (much to my mother in-law's amused chagrin) because that's where my heart is, quite frankly.  Ever since my dad gave me my first box-set 0f original Star Trek novels (Sci Fi was my first love) I've been obsessed with the fantastic and strange.  

See, if the market for my fiction ever dries up (God forbid) I'd stop writing the memoir stories.  They're connected, and provide balance for each other...if I stopped writing the memoir stories, it'd be much easier for me to lose touch with what really matters; if I stopped writing my weird strange fiction, I'd lose the motivation to write completely.

Ironically, the measure stands at six to six.  Six fiction shorts published in the secular market (not counting Hiram and my editing gigs) and six memoir shorts.  Interesting how that works out, eh?

It's all about balance.