“I want your gun and your badge Haywood…”
“I want your gun and your badge goddamit, Haywood. You’ve gone too far this time and the DA is chewing on my ass…”
“Tell the DA to go fuck himself.”
“Haywood, goddamit! You’re a disgrace. You’re washed up. You’re a throwback. Give me your gun and badge and get the hell out of the precinct.’
Um. So. I never actually had a gun. The badge was only a little thing made from some cheap tin alloy that you could snap in half. We don’t have DA’s – we have the CPS but they’re all weird lawyer people who run about with massive paper files and ties covered in gravy. Oh and we don’t have precincts either. No, we do. We have precincts in town centres where cars can’t go during the day but not actual police precincts. But other than that the above statement is mostly true. Apart from the bit about being a washed up throwback disgrace. That wasn’t true. Maybe it was true. Yeah okay, it was true.
I’ve left work. Yep. Done it. I am now a full-time lazy arse grow-a-beard wear-a-cardigan professional writer idiot. I have taken leave of my senses and my career to pursue the golden chalice of my dreams to write full-time. I have stepped away from a salary and a pension – but only for 12 months.
It was all getting a wee bit silly. I’d been writing for 4 years while working full-time hours. At first, it was just a hobby but slowly, it kinda grew and got bigger until I started seeing some rewards from the efforts. The money I was earning was put straight back in to pay for advertising and marketing. That perpetual motion then continued until finally I was able to get a literary agent. Thereafter began some serious work of getting The Undead submitted to publishers. They all said no but some also came back and said they loved my writing style and to come up with new material. So I did. I wrote a time travel book which is the first part in what will hopefully be a trilogy or even a series. That book was submitted and a publisher loved it(I’m not allowed to say who). They sent it back for re-work, so I re-worked it and re-wrote the whole thing. They loved it again and we’re now negotiating contracts for a publishing deal. While that was going on I was still writing The Undead series. The sales were proving strong and growing on each release. Then along came Audible who commissioned the “Days” to be made into “Parts”. That has also done much better than anyone of us expected. I don’t earn huge amounts from it. Not at all. Nothing like what people think but it’s enough to give some level of confidence. During all that I then wrote a new Undead Standalone book (not Blood on the Floor). This is a new Day One adventure showing the initial infection from a new character’s POV. That book was also submitted to publishers. One of them came back and loved it (again I can’t say who) and again we’re negotiating a contract for that publisher to take on the new – as yet unnamed – Undead Standalone.
While that was all happening I was still working. I was busy. Really busy. I sold the old house I bought to do up and moved into a much smaller place to gain more time but I was still busy. Every minute of every day counted for something. I’d get up at 5.30, walk my dogs, go to work on a day shift and come home and write. I’d do the same the next day and the next day. On a late shift I would get up at 5.30, walk the dogs, write and then go to work. On a day off I would get up at the same time and spend the day writing.
Don’t get me wrong, it was worth doing as I could just about see it was starting to work out but these last 6 months or so have been the most gruelling of my life and for many different reasons.
Work was becoming an issue. I was changing as a person. Writing does that to you. It opens your eyes to a huge amount of things that previously would never bother you. I was becoming more outspoken and challenging towards decisions that were being made by bosses, which is never a good thing. I was always polite but I could see bad things being done and potentially illegal decisions being made – and I got labelled accordingly. I was also picking up on hostilities from the people I worked with. There was a perception that I was becoming successful and therefore I must be earning a fortune. I wasn’t but once rumours like that get cemented they don’t bloody go away. People are hard up. People are struggling for money. I’m single and my overheads are very low. Because I’m always writing I don’t go out or have expensive hobbies and I rarely drink alcohol. The few negative comments became more and more until it became something I couldn’t really deal with anymore.
In December I was off work for a week or so. Everyone was off sick with a bad bug going round. The walls were dripping with vomit and there was almost a stready trail of shit on the floor it was that bad. I took time off, the same as lots of other people did – but the perception was that I was only off to write a book. There were comments recorded on legal documents stating words to that effect. Some people were becoming vicious, spiteful and just bloody horrible. Things were going missing. My kit was being fucked about with. Nothing was ever said to me directly as I’d quite happily confront and deal with it there and then but it was all cowardly behind the back stuff that is just a bit shit. I’d been quite open about writing and if people asked what I was earning I told the truth. I don’t like lying and if someone else had good luck or good fortune with something I’d be thrilled for them. I was honest and said some months are great and some are bloody dire but that didn’t do me any favours as people only hear the bit they want to hear. I then learnt to stop talking about it and became evasive when asked questions. That made me look arrogant. I could neither be open nor reticent. I couldn’t even talk to my closest friends and some of my family because again the perception was that I was minted and earning a fortune and that bred ill-feeling.
All during this time I was getting constant contacts, emails and messages from readers all over the world. Nearly all of them were lovely heartfelt private messages telling me how my books had touched them. How they had laughed and cheered, shed a tear and wept openly as the series went on. It was humbling and beautiful to know my words could have that kind of impact. I tried to reply to all of the messages but some I just physically couldn’t get to for a few days. Sometimes they got nasty and called me an arrogant cunt for not replying. I also had issues with people sending me abuse because of the poor grammar in the books. I’ve only ever had schoolboy English to use and I do try to get better but the whole series is home-produced and mostly self-edited.
Like I said. It was all getting a bit silly. Stupidly, I even tried dating a couple of times but that was a complete disaster. I was open and said how busy I was and that for a little while, until I can leave my job, I literally have no time. Friends were the same. They wanted to chat and spend time talking but I didn’t have that time. It was awful. I was awful. I shouldn’t have dated or even tried to do date or meet someone new. I was offending people simply because of the sheer amount of things I had to do and that I couldn’t spend time with them. I was constantly apologising for forgetting things, birthdays and events, that sort of thing. People said they understood how frantic everything was but they still showed great offence when I didn’t text back that same day or reply to the email. I mean it takes seconds to reply to a message doesn’t it, but all those seconds add up.
I was being asked for interviews more too. I tried saying yes to everyone but again it came down to time. One chap wanted to feature me on a brand new horror website and asked if he could interview the characters from The Undead. I’ve been asked that several times and have always said no. This chap took it a step too far and even sent me some material written in the style of Howie and Dave being interviewed and giving answers to questions, but something about the way he did it irritated the shit out of me. He called me Rob too. They were little niggles that shouldn’t have bothered me and normally wouldn’t but at that time I was feeling the pressure.
Another chap wanted to be a character in the next Undead book. I’d run a competition which was won by the lovely Paula Gabriel who became the character “Pea” in Day Nineteen, (along with her close friend Sam). This chap offered me big bucks to write him in. He offered me goods too. It got very uncomfortable, I mean really uncomfortable. He kept emailing but the tone was with an expectation of compliance to his instructions which weirded the shit out of me.
All of those things sort of built up the layers of pressure. I was being pulled in too many different directions at once. I was offending people with my lack of time. It felt like I couldn’t do right for doing wrong. Conversations with people were being repeated in online platforms. Sometimes simply copied and pasted. I was being misquoted which in turn made me back away again and just give bland replies which then makes you look like an arrogant dick. At times like that you feel like you’re getting backed into a corner and I was starting to snarl and show teeth which is a way of telling people to fuck off and give me some space.
At the end of February, I put my papers in at work and requested to go straight away. My big boss was great and released me instantly.
That was it. I was done. I was out. It was a snap decision executed swiftly. I expected the feeling of pressure to be taken away instantly but sometimes it doesn’t work like that, sometimes it takes a bit longer. I went quietly too because my head was spinning and my brain was frazzled. I needed a time out from other people. I got home the day I finished work and started writing a new book. 29 days later I finished Blood on the Floor. I didn’t tell anyone I had left work which then also caused offence. I didn’t want to tell anyone anything. I’d had enough of talking and explaining and needed time alone. I walked my dogs, played X-box, worked out, wrote and ate healthily. That was it. I slept like a log for a month. Big sleeps too. I read a bunch of books, pottered about my house and then wrote more. I read posts on The Living Army Facebook group and chuckled at the inane conversations going on between decent like minded people (thank you The Living Army)
So er, yep, I’m now a full-time writer I guess. I’ve taken a 12 month leave of absence. I don’t know if I will go back. I loved my job and will never rule out going back but right now this is what I want to do. Just this.
I’m sorry to anyone close to me who I annoyed and offended during the last 6 months but honestly, it was uber fucking insane. It was nothing personal so er…maybe stop sulking? No doubt that’s gonna get me in more trouble but ah well bollocks. If people are that precious they can’t see outside their own lives then fuck ’em.
To any readers who had a delayed reply I genuinely apologise as that was never my intention and I hope this blog goes some way to explaining why.
Blood on the Floor is out now. It’s the first standalone book from the world of the Undead. The reviews so far are amazing, thank you to everyone who has bought and reviewed it. I really hope you enjoy the story and please do leave a review. I’m still an indie author and now more than ever those reviews count for so much.
The next standalone Undead book (A new Day One Adventure as yet unnamed) is due out in the summer. I will post more when I can.
The Undead Day Twenty is underway.
Join The Living Army on Facebook. They hold book quizzes for prizes. The Undead Day Eight quiz is on April 23rd. The Living Army Facebook group