Celebrating the 5th Bookiversary of The Stairs in the Woods
Life has a way of making choices for you. You may have your own dreams of who you want to be, but the world is under no obligation to take that into account. For instance, I wanted to grow up to be the rhythm guitarist for a metal band. Turns out, my hands have certain limitations with regard to that particular talent. I can only play so well, and I've long come to terms with that fact. But in a strange way, my love of music prepared me for the passion I never knew I had: writing.
See I never dreamed of being an author when I was a kid. Not seriously anyway. I toyed with the idea when I was in high school and enamored with every Stephen King novel I could get my hands on. But like a kid can be prone to do, I moved on to other obsessions - particularly with music. I had started guitar lessons my freshman year of high school, and was possibly the okayist guitarist I knew.
But come the summer before my junior year I responded to one of those old pull paper tag ads at the local music shop where my lessons were for a local band looking for a guitarist. The next two years I poured my heart and soul into a garage band with overly large dreams. It was an interesting mix of kids who all loved different styles of music. Mash us together and you got quite the conglomeration of sound. And while I enjoyed my part in the band those two years, it was certainly a bit part. I wasn't writing any of the riffs or lyrics; I wasn't doing any of the musical arrangement, though I did write my own parts. That all came from our bassist and lead singer. When I did try to introduce any of my own stuff to him, I got a little more than a shrug out of him. While we were all "in the band," it was clearly "his band."
When I moved on to college and met other people I had the opportunity to play with, I found people with more common musical tastes to my own. And when I introduced them to the riffs I had written, they immediately started bouncing ideas off me. And when they introduced stuff to me, I did the same. It became a collaberation rather than a dictatorship.
This is where I finally got a chance to write. I wrote most of the band's lyrics, though if other members had a line that was better than what I wrote I was quick to interate it. I did most of the arrangement, as I do have a knack for that. And about half of the riffs were mine. They weren't always the most technically challenging, but they complimented what others brought to the table.
When I left college, I left a lot of that behind. I still played and wrote music for my own enjoyment, but the dreams of making it big in rock and roll were long gone. I had entered the real world out of necessity, and I put a lot of myself on hold in order to survive. Add in the eventual marriage and child, and it's incredibly easy to forget about who you are in service to that family.
But what happens then when that family falls apart? What happens when you've poured so much of yourself into something that's broken and forgotten about who you are? These were the questions that lead me to sitting down one day and writing what I thought at the time was just a little bit of therepy. It was a scene about a woman coming home from the other side of the country to take care of her dying father, and that one last good day before the all too awful end. I pulled a lot of inspiration from my personal life as Kaitlynn's father was dying of cancer--a disease that has taken far too many people from my life. And as the story expanded, I poured in the grief from the loss of my marriage, as well as the grief I had never truly faced when my own parents split up.
For those of you that have read my first novel The Stairs in the Woods, you know what happened next. I took this story of grief and this woman being at her lowest point in life and turned it into a story about finding who she really had been that whole time. In a strange way the story mirrored my own tale--I was rediscovering myself along the way. The creative part of me had been there all along lurking under the surface and dying to be released once more.
That's not to say I hadn't done any writing or used any of my creative energy in the years between. I ran my fair share of table top role playing games for friends. I wrote articles for a pair of small video game websites. But until I sat down and wrote The Stairs in the Woods, I had never believed that I could have been an author--even though there had been people in my life telling me that I should do just that. I didn't believe it until I did it. And when I hit publish on August 14th of 2018 (5 years ago yesterday) I still had no idea of the journey that waited ahead of me all these years later.
And it's fair to say I made my share of mistakes along the way. The book's first cover was not my idea of what I would have ever wanted, but it was the best I could do with Amazon's free creation tools. My second cover was a lot better and the sales came with it, though the more I've learned about this industry the more I've come to believe that it's still not exactly to the professonal level I really want.
That's why Stairs will be getting a cover refresh sometime next year. I've already gotten in touch with a cover artist I've been wanting to work with for quite a while and I can't wait to see what they come up with. I hope this will be the first of many projects we work on together, not just on new books like The Shadow Sisters, but on refreshes of old covers as well.
But for today, the point is that this is the book that got it all started. It's the reason I'm here today with five novels out in the world and why I have even more of them to come. In the midst of the worst time in my life, I found myself--just like Kaitlynn did. And if this story does nothing else for those who dare to finger its pages, I hope that the key takeaway for readers is that it's never too late to become who you always should have been.
Chase your dreams.