What I want, when I want.

It's funny. Here I am, probably about to sell the most books I've ever sold, and I'm not currently writing. I'm reassessing my writing "career." (I had a book promotion a few years back for Led to the Slaughter, and it got several hundred downloads in a few days, but that one was free.) I hope Book Bub comes through for Crossroad more than anything.

But it got me thinking about what a "career" means. Thing is, I came back to writing to prove to myself, if no one else, that I could do it. Finish a book and put it out in the world. The secondary goal was to write a "good" book. The actual sales and reviews were more or less a third goal.

So the writing took off enough that I needed to fulfill some commitments. I needed to finish the Vampire Evolution Trilogy. I need to finish the Tuskers Sage. I wanted to keep the Virginia Reed Adventures going.

Even that felt a little bit like an imposition. I mean, I loved all those books and I enjoyed writing them, but it was still done with a bit of the "need to be done" about it.

So from the start, I've told myself to write "what I want, when I want." And that has been very freeing. Strictly speaking, I haven't been that concerned about strategy and or tactical placement. For instance, choosing better selling genres or settling in on one lone series, both of which are proven techniques of growing an audience.

I did start writing thrillers because the mainstream publisher I was dealing with didn't want to do SF, Fantasy, or Horror. But that was OK because I wanted to try that anyway. Thrillers are mostly what I read these days.

The mainstream publisher bought a thriller from me, as a ghost written book. This was definitely strategic in that I thought there was an implied promise that they would accept another book from me under my own name. Two thrillers later and no response--Not a rejection, but No Response--I gave up on that idea. (Meanwhile the ghostwritten thriller I wrote three years ago, which was extremely topical when I wrote it, has now become almost dated. I am flabbergasted by the lost opportunity...)

So that road was one I never really contemplated. I was invited in. The editor got in touch with me and asked. So what the hell--I thought thought something might happen, but I was fully aware it might not. My previous experience with New York publishers back in the 80s had been disillusioning. I'm not surprised the same thing has happened.

But that's what drew me back to writing. The wonderful opportunity to ignore the big guys and still find an audience, no matter how small.

So my goal was relatively modest.

And that has brought me to a realization. A full-blown "career" in writing means being fully engaged. Not in writing--I'm perfectly fine with that--but with everything else involved. I mean, if I can write "what I want, when I want" and it takes off and I'm allowed to keep doing "what I want, when I want," it, that would be a fine career.

But I don't think it works that way.

So here I go back to my real career as a small bookshop owner. I made this choice 35 years ago and fully committed to it--at first just trying to survive and pay off the loans, and then to make it work, and before I know it, I had a "career." Somewhat accidental, but I had put the work in. I'd done all the things I needed to do, whether they were things I wanted to do or not. I made the choice--and did the necessary things.

Over the years, I've often had people say to me--"Oh, I've thought of doing that as a sideline." Whether it be a game store, or a comic store, or a bookstore, or Magic, beanie babies, whatever.

And my ready answer was: "Do you believe that I could do your job as a sideline and make a go of it. Not put in the amount of work and effort and stress that you do?" And the answer, obviously, is probably not. Those kinds of jobs--that ones that don't actually lose money--require full-time commitment. (Another little saying I have: "If you aren't trying to make money, you are going to lose money.)

I've been in this game long enough now to observe full-time writers and their careers, and I can see how much work, effort, and stress they are putting into it. Lots of interaction with their fans, online and in person, lots of tactical decisions, lots of promotions, lots of planning and working.

And this doesn't even count the actual writing!

Well, that makes sense, the same way the commitment I made to Pegasus Books--and still so--makes sense.

So the truth is, if I was presented with the opportunity of a "career" and all that demands, I'd have to take a step back and go, "Whoa..."

The answer is yes---but only if I can keep doing "what I want, when I want." I mean, hey, maybe that will work. There are probably a few writers out there that get away with that. But taking it on with the kind of energy I gave to Pegasus Books? That probably isn't going to happen.

I guess I'm hoping that I can keep on doing "what I want, when I want," and have it all work out. But I know that would probably be a miracle.