Almost tanned, rested and ready to return to work! I realized I had to take a week OFF and let myself adjust to the New Order. Like Peter, on a smaller scale, I’ve won the lottery – I’m now one of those people who (GASP) actually get to do what they want for a living. Working two jobs for 2.5 years, I’ve been running on stress the whole time, I can see now. And when I left the day job, I was still in that stress mode, telling myself I had to “hit the ground running” and write write write publish publish publish go go go!
Yeah. That was not working for me. This week I had to just step away from that pressure I put on myself, both financially and creatively. I was so obsessed with making as much money, or at least half as much, as I made last month, that I FORGOT that I don’t need that much to be happy. I was all worried that I wouldn’t meet my financial “goal” this month, until I realized that all I had to do to stop worrying was…adjust the goal down 20%. Which is still enough to meet my needs AND start paying down my credit cards. I cancelled the lavish hotel reservation for my NYC trip and rebooked a room for almost half as much, instead of freaking out about whether or not I’d be able to make enough to pay for it.
The greatest luxury I can buy right now is time, and I have it. I still have to remind myself that I don’t have to mad-dash to finish my writing by 6:30 am to go to work. I have to remind myself that I can watch CBS This Morning (the only real news show in the morning, no wacky weatherman or makeup tips), all two hours of it if I want. I have made a point of asking myself at any time of the day, “What would you be doing right now if you still had a day job?” Often the answer is, something monotonous and repetitive that would have me eating food I didn’t need, as if trying to chew my way out of my cubicle.
I have to remind myself that I can do things I haven’t done in a long time, like…read a novel! For pleasure! That my formerly limited reading time no longer has to be limited to nonfiction research books. That I can STOP and REST and recharge my physical, emotional, and creative batteries. That my only imposed clock and calendar is my self-imposed one.
It’s been a revelation to me that I’m a capitalist now. I can take a day off and just…delegate the work to my employees, and live off their labor. Kyle and Nick are my most productive workers right now, and they’re really raking in the bucks! And I have Sam and Derek, Rocky and Dex, Roger and Brian, Tom and Jamie, Peter and Matt…if I was a real employer I’d be in trouble, what with the 100% sausage fest on my payroll.
I can’t sit still forever, but I MUST sit still sometimes. I get it from my mom, this idea that “if I sit down and rest, I may never get back up again.” That resting would be so appealing that I’d instantly degenerate into a cigarette-smoking, judge-show-watching, bottom-shelf-vodka-slurping layabout.
But at last, I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t run on fumes forever. My body said, STOP. My brain said, STOP. I had one last great burst of creativity when I put out “Awesome Amsterdam,” as my furious counter to the snooty reviewer of “Christopher Blue” who said, o Brad Vance is a sellout, man. I had one last burst of energy when I decided, hey screw you buddy, I’m doubling down on my charity this month because that’s what my smutty super shorts let me do. Then I was done. If I was a movie star, I could say I was “hospitalized for exhaustion.”
And resting has been great. I’ve actually been able to read books and make notes for Adam Vance’s next book (I know, so I never really stopped working, but it’s a change of pace), which was just…fun. I can let my imagination run wild in science fiction, build empires and create species and design AIs. Sometimes I feel a little limited by the romance genre, the need to adhere to the established tropes and structure, at least at a high level, and not get dinged for things like I got dinged for in “Faith,” i.e. too much backstory and not enough “real time” with the MCs together. Whereas in science fiction, I can go crazy, do it my way, and what’s fresh and different and unusual is not only okay, it’s expected. Adam is a long term project, so there’s no financial pressure on the younger Vance Brother to perform right now. Brad’s job is to subsidize Adam until he can get on his feet, no worries, take your time, brother!
I don’t know if anyone’s more startled than I am at the success of my little stepfuckers. What began as a quick and dirty one off short has turned into a series in which the two characters are actually…evolving! It’s still hot and dirty, but it’s also a romance. I heard my readers say they wanted to see a deeper relationship between Nick and Kyle, and I realized, yeah, there has to be – it can’t just go on as a series with a fuck fuck here and a fuck fuck there, here a fuck there a fuck everywhere a fuck fuck. Once I realized I LIKED these guys, that I WANTED them to have a relationship, it started happening.
I think my next “Smutketeer” column will be about writing this new genre of supershorts – the right way and the wrong way to do it. Kindle Unlimited has really made this approach possible, because persuading people to drop .99 on a 15 page story? It’s tough. I don’t know why – you’d spend .99 on a candy bar at the store, and it’s the same thing, a quick sugary rush that you don’t expect to last. But when you have the “all you can eat” option of KU, the length of a story is no barrier. And authors make just as much on a 15 page story as they make on a 450 page novel…so none but a blockhead would give up the opportunity to publish a successful series of 15 pagers. But it’s easier said than done. You may get a quick “pet rock” type success with a story about a three way between a dinosaur, a unicorn, and a toaster, but once the email has been circulated, ha ha check this out, and the Buzzfeed article has bumped your numbers, you’re dead. Novelties are not a sustainable business model. But as long as KU works the way it does, a quality candy bar/supershort is.
I read an interesting article in “Foreign Affairs” magazine, in their issue about innovators. A review of Peter Thiel’s book “Zero to One” mentioned something that really resonated with me. Thiel’s complaint about the new generation of startups is that they aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel – instead, they’re just trying to make a slightly better version of an existing wheel (photo sharing, social networking, sex cruising, whatever). The enemy of any business is competition, and if you do what everyone else is doing, you’re going into business at a disadvantage because you already have competitors. Your goal as a business founder should be to establish a monopoly, to build something nobody else has built, or can build.
It’s a version of what I always call the “million dollar idea” vs. the “billion dollar idea.” The million dollar idea is to copy what’s popular, to create a 50 Shades knockoff (I know, Christopher Blue, more on that later) or whatever, something that addresses the existing market. The billion dollar idea is the one that creates a market where there wasn’t one. “I’m going to sit in this café and write seven doorstoppers about a boy wizard!” CRAZY PERSON ALERT. Well, said Crazy Person is now a billionaire, because she created a market. Yeah, of course there have always been YA novels, and magical tales in which fatherless boys are adopted by wizards. But by ignoring the rules, by placing Harry and friends and their magical world in the here and now instead of in the past or an alternate world, by adding dry British humor to a genre known for ponderous seriousness, by designing a seven book series instead of the standard trilogy or a Wheel of Time/Game of Thrones “never ending story,” Rowling made something new. And people are always so very hungry for something new.
I still say it, the day is coming soon when M/M romance breaks through to the best seller list. No, in our lifetimes, it won’t be found among the cowboy romance paperbacks on the supermarket shelves. Not when legislatures are even now trying to create every new form of anti-gay bigotry they can, even if the Supreme Court outlaws the existing form by legalizing gay marriage. But someone is going to break through. Someone is going to be the breath of fresh air in a tired genre. I hear it over and over on Facebook lately – ladies who say, “this was my first M/M romance and I’ll never go back to F/M, I’m bored with it.” It’s happening now!
I want to be that guy. I want to be the one who rises to the top, the one who, when the media finally sees it happening, they will come to for the interview, the pull quotes. And the best, the only way, I can do that is to maintain my high standards of quality. Realistic situations, non-soapy dialogue, hot sexin’ that actually drives the plot and character development forward, intensive research on the world my characters are inhabiting… Yeah, all that.
And that takes energy. You can’t phone that shit in. Hell, I thought my stepfuckers would be an easy break from research…then I had to go and send them to Europe! I know, boo hoo, reading travel books and watching Rick Steves videos, hard work, right?
So yeah, I’m resting. And thinking, and getting ready for what comes next. Which is as follows…
More stepfucking! I thought it would be time to wind this series up with #7, but they’re actually getting better, and more popular, as they go. I even had someone on Goodreads who gave a 2.5 star review to #1 come back later and say, wait, never mind, this series gets better! I am now planning on a total of ten – the “Berlin” story to end Kyle’s winter break, and then I have to figure out what Nick does while Kyle’s back in school for the spring. And then a summer trilogy in those sexy and romantic cities that really shine in summer – Paris, Barcelona, and of course Florence, where Nick was supposed to go with his late mom. THEN I think we’ve reached the end of the line.
I’m at an impasse with Christopher Blue. I don’t really have any great fresh ideas for successive stories, I just…knocked that one out as a lark after a FB conversation one day about wanting to see some asshole billionaire be a sub for once. And I don’t want to phone them in. But, before I abandon them, I need to make sure it’s not just because I got stabbed hard by that bad review of me, personally, and not the story itself. Once bitten, twice shy, but maybe I will have some clever ideas for them, once I get over my hurt and rage. If not, well, I’ll drop it.
I need to do some research for “Would I Lie to You?” This is really one of my biggest challenges, research wise. I know tech, I’ve worked with and in tech for ever. But it’s tough to write fiction about it. Having someone typing on a keyboard really isn’t very dramatic, which is why on TV or movies they’re always unable to just hack the server – no, they have to break into the server room, because that’s more dramatic. And there’s the preposterously impossible crap they put up as technological solutions to problems. I love that show “Arrow” but I just saw an episode last night, in which they take a grainy video, “enhance” it to the point where they’re zoomed in on someone’s eyeball…and hey presto! A crystal clear reflection in said eyeball of a logo that identifies the location! HOLY CRAP WHAT BULLSHIT. Yeah. I need to work hard to avoid shit like that. (There will be a break in, but I have a clever twist on that, I think.)
So! That’s what’s coming. A few more days’ rest and I’ll be back in the saddle again.