Un-Amateur, Un-Professional

Hi there.

It’s been a while.  For those of you who don’t know me (or have — quite reasonably — forgotten about me), I’m Thomas A. Mays, intermittent sci-fi author.  Welcome!  For those that do know me, hello again, sorry for the significant delay.

When last I wrote, back during the innocent days of November 2016I would have called myself a semi-pro author (self-published category).  I had written a book over the course of a number of years, published it in 2014, was lucky enough to find an audience for it, and very much enjoyed the spoils of said publication.  This included short story sales to magazines, invitations to anthologies, getting featured as a guest at local cons, hobnobbing with other authors, and regular interaction with fans of my work — all with the understanding that I was working toward the next piece, whether that be a sequel or an entirely new, next big thing.

But that sense of myself included a fair bit of self-delusion.

I have to admit to myself and to you that I am no pro.  I’m more than an amateur.  Amateurs don’t get queries from fans and folks in the business.  Amateurs don’t have to declare their hobby on their taxes.  But, having met real pros, pros who have figured out the work-life-writing balance, I have to recognize that I am not amongst their ranks.

I am proud to call many of them friends.  I am not so arrogant as to call myself their equal.

It’s been going on 4 years since I published A Sword Into Darkness.  Its sequel, Lancers Into The Light, is half-finished.  It’s been half-finished for over a year.  I have the path to finish it, but I have not been able to sit down and actually put the words on the screen.  It is not writer’s block.  I more or less doubt that is a real thing.  But I have allowed almost everything and anything to get in its way, even though it is a story I love and a marked improvement over the original, with better writing, larger stakes, more fantastical science, and more epic battles throughout.

Now, if you look at how long it actually took me to write ASID from conception to completion, I’m not actually doing that poorly.  But that is the timeline of a hobbyist, not a pro writer.  I’ve written other things in that time, but I’m not writing like a pro, no matter how much I might have deluded myself in the heady days of 2015.  I’m not writing daily as much as I should.  I’m not making 1K or 2K or 5K words a day, consistently.  I’ve written a few shorts and made progress on one never-ending project or another, but I haven’t gotten that sequel out, nor have I met my commitments as I should have, much to the consternation of my partners and peers.

I could blame that on a number of things.  There’s been a lot in my life in 2016 and 2017 that I could throw up there to say, “This.  This is why I haven’t produced.”  There’s been divorce and new love, both of which require an investment of time.  There’s been my dedication to being a good father, despite physical distance and lack of time with my kids.  There’s been the day job, which deserves the lion’s share of my time.  That’s because it’s both what I took an oath to do, and it’s your tax dollars at work (no, not saying what it is, if you wanna know, google me).  (It’s also AWESOME.)

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But while those are all legitimate time-sucks, they are not reasons.  They are not why.  Every pro out there has very similar obstacles to their progress.  They still make the time.  They still have the dedication and the will and the ability.  That’s what makes them pros.  What is the reason?  I honestly don’t know.  I just know that despite many promises to myself, I often found myself distracted or prioritizing those other things over my writing.  Sometimes, after work, instead of spending an hour writing, I’d lose a day in social media, or drop a day watching the idiot tube, or focusing on those legitimate distractions.  The will and the consistency were not there.

This is not an insurmountable issue, however.  The first step is recognizing the problem, and then having the support and the forcing mechanisms to grow those skills, to develop those habits.  And I’m happy to say that my consistency is improving, through both self-will and a VERY understanding and adorably slave-driving girlfriend.

So, why tell you this now?  Well, one, I feel fans of my work are owed.  And, two, I have something to show you at last.  Along with Lancers, I had another project I’ve been working on.  Actually, there are multiple projects (a lack of imagination has never been my issue), but this is a fascinating one.  How it came about is fodder for a future blog post but, in short, I will have a book coming out this year.  It’s not what I’m working toward.  It’s what I’ve done, along with the great, the prolific, and the very much every bit a professional Chris Kennedy.  He’s the author of (among many things) The Theogony trilogy, Codus Regius, and the co-creator of The Four Horsemen Universe with Mark Wandrey.

This is a full book, in editing now, co-written by Chris and me, from an outline by me.  The working title (it may possibly change), is The Mutineer’s Daughter.  It’s about a dedicated warrant officer in a post-diaspora (x2) space navy, serving to make a better life for his distant young daughter.  He’s then forced to do the unthinkable to save her from rapacious Terran troops.  The book alternates between two perspectives:  the warrant officer’s on a space-faring destroyer; and his daughter, forced to grow up and deal with the occupation of her homeworld.  The story kicks ass, and it has ABSOLUTE series potential.  It’s been in progress since around October 2016 and — if I was a pro — it would have been finished last February.  Took me a year longer than planned, but here it is, and the fact of its existence invigorates me and makes me want to finish more, including Lancers.

So, I’ve come to terms.  I’m not really a pro, not yet.  But I want to be, and after a very tumultuous time in my life, I’m working to become one like my friends and mentors.  I look forward to one day calling them peers without being a fraud.

And how do I prove my intentions to you?  I just have to keep producing.  Watch this space!

4 thoughts on “Un-Amateur, Un-Professional

  1. You’re being too hard on yourself. I would not throw around words such as ‘fraud’ and ‘self-delusion’ when you’ve got several published books. Pro/Amateur, in my opinion, just means whether writing is your day job.
    You have fans, and we’re just happy to wait for the next release.

  2. Hello there! … welcome back to the blog-O-verse. 🙂 … I couldn’t get going last year either. I think I managed on average 2 blog posts a month, and that was pushing it … but this year feels different … I figure I needed a ‘gap’ year … maybe you did too. 😀

  3. Hey Chris,

    Been a fan ever since I read ASID and eagerly await the sequel! You wrote as good a story as I have read and I mean it. It isn’t often that I revisit a book and I have read yours twice!

    I share your self-doubts as an amateur author (only more so as I am not yet published). I only finished editing Captive Embers in January 2018 after 6 years of research and writing. I balk when I hear about pros writing a book every few months!

    But that doesn’t mean our labors of love aren’t something to be proud of, because they are. You can read a little about it at Project Rho’s Atomic Rockets page. Winchell was kind enough to add me there (between Lumpkin’s and your entries!).

    Sorry to hear about the divorce. Hope things go smoother going forward. As a fellow servicemember (I’m an O-3 in the Army Guard), thank you for all you’ve done!

  4. Hey Chris,

    Been a fan ever since I read ASID and eagerly await the sequel! You wrote as good a story as I have read and I mean it. It isn’t often that I revisit a book and I have read yours twice!

    I share your self-doubts as an amateur author (only more so as I am not yet published). I only finished editing Captive Embers in January 2018 after 6 years of research and writing. I balk when I hear about pros writing a book every few months!

    But that doesn’t mean our labors of love aren’t something to be proud of, because they are. You can read a little about it at Project Rho’s Atomic Rockets page. Winchell was kind enough to add me there (between Lumpkin’s and your entries!).

    Sorry to hear about the divorce. Hope things go smoother going forward. As a fellow servicemember (I’m an O-3 presently in the Army Guard) thank you for all you’ve done!

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