And To Grow Old…

Newsletter 63 – May 24, 2024

Hi,

In Newsletter #62 I covered some of my medical issues and how those are hampering my ability to write. Nothing has been decided about my hand surgery yet. Minay and I will probably visit the surgeon together, sometime in June, to discuss all of my options. In this newsletter I would like to lay out my plans for the next decade or so, given my current situation.

Time is technically running out for me. According to the CDC, the average life expectancy in the US is 76.4 years, lower than it was just a few years ago (partly as a result of deaths during the Covid pandemic). I passed that 76.4-year mark two Novembers ago, but I’m not worried about an imminent departure from life. Minay and I eat well, and eat very little in the way of processed foods. We also don’t eat any red meat, just fish and fowl and lots of veggies. We don’t smoke and rarely drink. We both try to exercise regularly. Minay walks three or so miles a day, five days a week. I used to lift weights and work out with stretch bands three days a week. Now my exercise is mostly limited to working my lower body and my core on a Bosu ball, doing some yoga-style core exercises (but not the super-bendy ones), and mowing the lawn once every two weeks or so. We get regular checkups, and — aside from my recent setbacks — have had uniformly good diagnoses for our respective ages (Minay is nine years younger than I am). Both of our brains are sharp. Occasionally I joke that I plan to live to 120. Highly improbable, of course, but I do hope to have another decade or so where I’m physically and mentally capable of enjoying life and producing good quality books.

I usually write quickly and edit slowly (but apparently I’m not hitting that zone with this current novella). My books are not money makers, at least they aren’t right now. They could sell more if I would advertise them heavily, something I can’t afford to do. I’m wearing all of the publishing hats myself now (writer, editor, proofreader, cover designer, internal layout, etc.), which is time-consuming and draining. If I sold more books I could afford to hire people to do a lot of the post-writing jobs for me, and that would leave me more time to just write and edit. But I have to sell more books first. Sort of a Catch-22, isn’t it? 😊

I started writing novels in my 60’s, and tried to find an agent so I could publish the books traditionally, but I soon discovered that route was filled with impossibilities for me. I started by approaching agents at writing conferences and pitching my book ideas to them. Several of them were interested enough to ask to see part or all of my manuscripts. Almost all of them were very helpful with suggestions, but none of them were willing to take me on as a client. I also sent numerous query letters to agents, and got favorable responses from several of them too, but no signings.

I knew from reading a lot of books about publishing that the process of getting traditionally published, even after jumping the seemingly impossible hurdle of getting signed with an agent, could take a long, long time. The agent would first have to get a publishing house interested in the book; a book which would then have a minimal chance of getting published. Even if a publishing house did decide to take a chance on it, it could take years before the book was actually printed and on the market. Also (especially as a new writer), I would still be marketing and publicizing the book entirely on my own. After trying that route for several years I realized it was taking up time I didn’t have. I decided to self-publish. The only real difference in the process would be that I could publish each book as soon as I felt it was ready. I would still have to market it on my own either way.

I published my first book (Jagged Man) in January 2015, six months before my 69th birthday. In the nine years since then I have published three more books (Aggravated, Chrysalis, and Emergence), and then pulled Jagged Man from the market to retool it. I realized I had published it too quickly. It was (is) a good book, a romantic thriller, but it had flaws that I felt needed fixing. Writing and publishing the prequel, Flood and Fire, in advance of Jagged Man is going to be one way I will try to generate advance interest in the full novel. If I had continued pursuing the traditional publishing route it’s very likely I wouldn’t have published anything by now (except possibly Aggravated, the book about my brother, which I would have self-published anyway because it needed to get a public viewing as soon as possible).

So, my primary goal for the rest of the year is to finish and publish Jagged Man and Flood and Fire, and begin work on another novel. You’ll know from previous newsletters that I have several possible novels waiting in the wings that are already partially written (Murder Between Friends, The Hawthorn’s Sting, and Book One of the Lives of Franklin Roosevelt Jones series), but I have another series that might take precedence over any of those others. I’ve mentioned it before. It’s the post-apocalyptic retelling of the Arthurian tales, set in a severely devastated version of the American South. It’s untitled at the moment, but I’ve been referring to it as the Merle Boudreaux series. The working title for the first book in the series is currently called Ends and Beginnings. For reasons I can’t explain yet (but will sometime in the next few months), it might jump to the head of the queue.

Which brings me to one other thing I mentioned in the previous newsletter, the future of the newsletter itself. It’s been taking up a great deal of my mental energy and time when I could be writing, not to mention the time and effort needed to sort out some of the other issues that seem to be plaguing me right now. I will still keep publishing the newsletter every 2nd and 4th Friday as before, but I won’t be writing new content for a while. The next newsletter, and each successive one, possibly for the rest of the year, will be reprints beginning with Newsletter #1. I will drop an occasional update or two in some of them about my circumstances and the status of the writing. You can always reach me at this newsletter’s email address if you have anything you want to say. I hope you’ll stick with me, but I will absolutely understand if you don’t.

The next newsletter will be mailed on June 14th. Hopefully I will see you then.

Michael

[“And to grow old — it is no fun, but it is interesting.”
The Dance of Death, August Strindberg, 1901.]

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