From Hiatus to the Trenches

Having been away from writing for far too long, I am finally finding myself returning to a place where I am most comfortable; buried up to my neck in a quagmire full of words and bad intentions.

The last three weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions in our home which began with my wife undergoing a rather painful surgical procedure that she is still soldiering through.  My free time, what little of it I have, was redirected towards organizing the troops and getting things done around the house while she recovered.

Barely a week out from under the knife, we lost a beloved member of the family, on her side.  Sadly, we knew that that it was only a matter of time, but in reality there is no preparing for the inevitability of death.  It’s never how you think it will be.  When it happens, you don’t just skip to the burial.  There are an endless parade of arrangements that have to be made before you get to this point, not just for the recently deceased, but in getting the extended family together for the final farewell.

Every breath you take is a struggle against the sadness and despair of realizing that you will have to learn to cope, to live, without the one you lost and it feels as if every second will last an eternity.

Finally, the last calls have been made.  Events have been set into motion and just when you think that you are going to be able to live your trembling chin up once more, you realize that it’s upon you to begin removing the final details of your loved one’s life.  Clothes, pictures, knick-knacks and every little thing that helped define this person must now be sorted, divided, donated and/or thrown away.

Fortunately, this is the point of transition.  This is when you pass the point of “he/she was just talking to me “x” amount of time ago” to “he/she is really gone…”  The pain returns, spreading over your entire being like frozen napalm and once again you lose yourself in the sea of melancholy that has settled around you.

As a horror writer, I was able to look at the whole process a little more objectively than everyone else.  Yes, I was affected by the loss of this person whom I had come to know over the last thirteen years.  I will greatly miss the ribbing and brutal honesty she imparted upon everyone around her.  It was part of her charm, and she will be missed.

But as often as I find myself writing about death, I don’t often think of what happens between the point of being alive and being buried.

With my trilogy, there were a couple of difficult losses to deal with.  But, for the sake of time (not my own, but because the characters were working against it), it has yet to be dealt with.

I have been home for a few days now and my thoughts are abuzz with ideas.  Unfortunately, these ideas involve my recent experiences and incorporating them into my characters during a few moments of their downtime.  I say unfortunate because this means I will have to rewrite some passages in order to give them these traits.

It feels necessary, considering the hell they’ve been through together.

So here I float, in a stinking quagmire of dark emotions and words that need to be sorted, shuffled like a deck of cards and inserted into the final installment of J.R.’s Ballad.  I know not how long this will take.  Compounded with the editing and rewrites I have yet to finish, it certainly looks like a daunting task!

But I am hard at work my friends.  I am home, in spirit and in body and have returned to John’s tale for this final battle of words.

Posts toward my webseries may come a little less frequently, I admit it HAS been awhile since concluding the intro to my latest, but they shall not be forgotten.  I have two posts uploaded that will need some final edits, and I expect to publish them with-in the next few days.

R. Richardsson



We all feel it from time to time.  It hits us when we least expect it, when we think we’re at our best or most comfortable.  Our will to continue slowly drains until all that is left is an empty pit of despair.  We wonder why we are doing this.  Why did we even begin at all?  Is it worth it?  Has it been worth it?

There are literally millions of us peddling our work into the digital world.  As readers, we know that there are quite a few lemons out there.  We’ve tried a new body of work, only to find out that the author writes as if English were a second, or (shudders) third language.  Maybe that was the pivotal point in our blind purchasing?  Angry, we return to the point of purchase, leave a scathing review and return to that which we know.

Sometimes we come back.  (See what I did there?)  If there is one thing that remains true across the board, is that readers are HUNGRY for something new.  We want to be entertained.  We want to be informed, but most of all, we want to FEEL.  If we can not believe in the story, if the words are too broken to make sense of, we abandon it for greener pastures.

But what does this have to do with writing, you ask?

Everything, my dear reader.  Everything.

Because as writers, we are investing everything not only into our stories, but into our readers as well.  All of our work goes into the making of the these new worlds, where characters embark on glorious quests for either noble or nefarious reasons.

Whatever your pleasure, right?

We build not only the setting, but the individuals that populate it.  Once this process completes, we, or should I say; “Most of us”, return to the beginning to give it the critical care it needs.

We labor…  No, that isn’t right.  We SLAVE over the words, again and again, until they are just right.  We pass our work onto editors, beta readers, friends and family in order to discover if what we have put into it is perfect.  Our scrutiny even goes so far as to the art that graces its cover.  Some few are gifted enough to be able to write well AND create a beautiful cover image.  Most of us, however, must put our trust into someone who is hopefully talented enough to realize the vision we pitch them.

(Fortunately, I’m lucky enough to have that going for me!)

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself just a little.  You see, before the cover image; before we let our work leave our hands, there’s an impasse at which we must make a very critical decision.

  • Do we start sending our work off to established publishing companies in the hope of becoming a client?
  • Do we dig our heels in and take the necessary steps to publish our book ourselves?
  • Or, do we do a combination of both?

Because, that’s totally important.  What’s more prestigious than having a publisher do the work for you?  You’ve made it Buster.  All you have to do now is write the books while they take care of the rest.  Of course, your book may not be the same as it was when it left your hands.  There may be changes made to meet THEIR vision of what it should be.  They may want YOU to do the changes yourself before they accept it!  You may have written a perfect body of work, only to find out that their editors corrected a line with…wait for it…an error!  You may find that the cover doesn’t make sense with your vision, or maybe they want to rename it to something else.

Who the hell wants to dick around with all that?  You’re living your dream, writing is your career, but you have very little control over what happens once it’s out of your hands.  And let’s not even go into royalties, appearances, etc.  You have to REALLY get someone’s attention if you want to break out of the crowd.

So forget about all that then.  Do it on your own, that’s the way to go!  Sure!

And now we’re back to where I was before I got ahead of myself.  We’ve written our work, poured our heart and soul into the story, handed it off to privately chosen test subjects, designed or commissioned a cover and then…what?  Why, we now have to find the right publishing platform!  Amazon/Createspace, Nook Press, Smashwords, Lulu…  The list goes on.  As independent writers, we have our favorites.  What matters is that we make it available to the readers!

We’ve finished editing our book, but now we have to format it for print!  If you haven’t done this before, it’s something that varies with each platform.  Smashwords, if I remember correctly, calls their formatting process ‘Through The Meat Grinder’, or something very similar and it’s a very fitting term.  You can spend an entire afternoon just trying to make your work look perfect for e-devices, PDF and Print formatting!

There’s also pricing to consider, blurbs and book descriptions…it all has to be perfect for not only your work, but for the market you’re entering it in.  You have to consider the competition you’re against.  (Remember, I did say MILLIONS of writers?)

Or, why not do a combination of both?  Write stories to publish on your own AND find a publisher for other original works as well?  You have time for that, right?  Geezus Pleezus, may I borrow your cape?

Not all of us are superheroes.  We don’t all have the same mission in life; “Wake Up!  Don Costume!  Save The World, One Book at a Time!”

No, we’re people, just like you.  Some of us have taken the martyr’s path to writing, committing our entire life to our passion.  We work from coffee shops, diners, or from (insert other minimum wage job title here) just so we can focus on what’s important.  We have one room apartments.  Sometimes we have a pet to accompany us, but we have chosen our path.  We are going to succeed and you can be damned if you say otherwise!

I often think about these people.  Sometimes I wish I was one of them, with only the words as my companions.  I would love to be able to stare into a blank page (or .docx) and watch as a never-ending parade of characters appeared before me, each coming to life as a living, breathing story!  Not that I don’t do this already, mind you!  I’m thinking of an alternate reality where I didn’t have to balance my passion against my responsibilities!

But it’s also a frightening venture and I wonder if I even have enough of ‘it’ to have been able to do that.  If I had made different decisions with my life, would I now be living a meager to moderate lifestyle as an author?  Or, would I have faded into the cracks of society/blogosphere/etc.?

We’re people just like you.

Some of us have families, and while writing may be our passion, it’s comes last to our responsibilities.

Take a brief look into my life, for example.  I’m a father of four beauties, all of whom I’m proud of in some way or another.  They love and support me in my ventures, and in return, I give them the love, attention and childhoods they deserve.  Uh…did I just say; “…in return…”?  What I actually meant was that they come first!

I have to write in whatever spare time I can scrape off of the clock, be it during nap-times, as they’re doing chores or on my days off.  How does having a day off help, you may wonder?  Oh.  I guess I should have covered that part of it.  You see, I’m employed part-time during the graveyard shift, working for a minimum of thirty-two hours per week.

Writers come in many flavors, much like our companion drink, coffee.  Some of us are really gifted!  Can you believe it?

Maybe, or maybe not, depending on your standing as a reader.  If you’ve turned away from the indie writing crowd, you’ll never know that, will you?

On the other hand, there are the breed of readers who ONLY read indie work. There’s a real market out there for stories so delectable to the palate that a reader can get lost for weeks, consuming millions or words as they desperately continue to escape from whatever reality they live in!

Writers, such as myself, realize that we have to tap into that market.  We STRIVE to be better at what we do, with everything we create.  We join support groups, marketing groups, social networks, forums and more in an effort to get our brand known. Minutes turn into hours better used for creating new stories, as we cast our metaphorical line into the pool, hoping that we have chosen the right hook for the task at hand.  Sometimes it pays off, others, well, let me just ask you this; “Have you ever gone mushroom hunting for Morels?”

Seriously.  Try it sometime.  It’s a lot like that.  Sometimes you could spend days and find not a single one, but when it hits…  Oh boy, when it rains, it pours!

Of course, I wouldn’t know.  I have yet to find a Morel this year.

We’re people just like you.

We laugh, we cry.  We eat, we sleep, (sometimes) and we long for companionship. Not in the physical sense, but in that Author/Reader bond that is generated from our efforts.

We have a tough hill to climb.  We feel like Sisyphus, eternally pushing a boulder up a hill it will never crest.  No, I won’t say our work is tougher that yours, because we all bear our Cross differently, but I what I hope I can safely impart is that we tend to FALL a lot farther when the boulder tumbles down.

Here we stand, holding the fruit of our labors.  An entire world literally rests in the palms of our hands.  Thousands of hours have gone into its creation and we face a wall of rejection so high that only the strongest will climb over.  There are so many of us (WRITERS) that each one of us is as important as the sperm to your (READERS) egg.  In order to create that symbiotic relationship, we have to be the strongest, the most impressive, the prettiest specimen you’ve come across in a while.  (No pun intended.)

Those are simply the odds.

We may craft stories you’ll remember years from now, but none of it matters if we can’t draw your attention long enough to get you hooked.

The minutes become hours.  Hours transform into days and days to months, but still we persist.  We reinvent the way we present our work to you.  We recreate OURSELVES, preening our presence in the vain hope that we’ll be able to create that bond we are so hungry for.

We want it for different reasons.  Sadly, many are in it only for the money. They think to themselves; “Book plus internet equals $$$,” and go from there.  The virtual bookshelves are polluted with those who dabble to this fancy.

We have a story to tell.  We have an idea for a story so powerful that we can’t help but to share it.  Many times you can find a good story from this pool, but there are just as many bad as there are good and the great ones are few and far between.

Fewer still are slaves to our passion.  We desire nothing more than to write, and write we shall.  We have our own office, or office space, where we can focus solely on the worlds that are clawing their way out of our psyche.  Sometimes they come screaming into our consciousness with their asses on fire and we find ourselves begging our fingers to keep up with the words as they tumble from us, but most times we are just driven simply to continue.  It has to be done, whether we want to or not and we often lose track of everything until it is.

So, when we’ve finally come to stop at the bottom of that hill, when we’ve careened down that great wall, what is there left for us?  We’ve given it our all, only to be beat out by those who have a bigger following.  Our work has been denied by the countless publishers, overlooked by the millions of readers and sits, covered in dust, whether virtual or physical, as we wallow in angst and despair.

What was it all for?  Why was I compelled to do this?  Oh my GOD, I have to start over because (…)!!!

A great majority never make it back from this, survival of the fittest and all that, but those who are meant to be great will and often do.  It’s how we come back that matters.  How have we learned from our mistakes?  Can we continue from here, or do we take a different approach?

I think about a lot of things while at work, most of all, how tough this has been on my family.  This is what I desire to do DURING my life, not at the end of it.  I don’t want to work in a blue-collar job, on the graveyard shift, where I will miss out on most of my children’s lives.  I don’t want my marriage to suffer for the next (…) year(s) as I try to maintain the sales that I DO have.

I’m in the process of finishing my third book, a title which will conclude a vampire hunter trilogy.  I’m ALSO writing a collection of short stories I hope to release by mid-summer!  Do you think that’s enough, on top of working nights and being Mr. Mom?

I’m also a contracted webpage designer.

I’m also Ghostwriting on the side.

And, I’m currently uploading free stuff to this website as a way for readers to get to know my work.

I’m a slave to my passion of storytelling, and sometimes it’s difficult to think about anything other than whatever story is currently trying to project vomit itself onto my screen.  So when I fall, you better believe it’s with enough force to rumble a neighboring city!

Who’s there to catch us when we fall?  Friends?  Family?  What if we have no friends?  What do we do when our family doesn’t support us?  How far do we fall before we are able to pick ourselves up?

As far as we need to.  It’s no more difficult than that.  Once we’ve come to a stop, it’s up to us as to whether we get run over by the boulder or roll out-of-the-way.

Wanna know a secret?

It’s always like this for the writer!

For us, the top is very much like that top of that hill in the Sisyphus analogy.  We’re forever ‘just’ reaching the top, only to have the boulder come crashing back down. Some are able to hold that boulder there for longer than other, but once the work starts anew, it comes a-tumblin, tumbling.

Wanna know something else?  Writing’s a LONELY job.  It’s a TIME-CONSUMING job.  We tend to disappear for months off the grid, and unless we have family there to coax us out into the open every now and again, you might find yourself wondering; “What ever happened to so-and-so?”

What indeed.

Where Did I Go?

Out of curiosity, a mood I sometimes find myself in these days, I sometimes Google myself or the things I have written.  It’s a habit that started three years ago, when writing was yet  wishful thinking and I was focusing on running an online fishing tackle supply, and it has since stuck.

Because I was competing in prices against several commercial names, I would spend hours researching the prices of their products vs. the prices of mine.  There were a handful of my products that were unique and I created a small campaign to promote them.  While I don’t need to get into the details, I will say that I just happened to find one of my products after doing a search.

As I was wont to do, I searched myself.

Lo and Behold, nearly all of my products popped up in the search!  And thus the beginnings of an addiction was born.

No, not the addiction to finding myself online.  I can see how you would jump to that conclusion!  No, it is an addiction that pushed me to do things which would get me on the Google hot list.

With the business it was all about the products.  The more I could find for my business; the more I could make mine to sell, the more I wanted to see if I was ‘searchable’ because of my efforts.

And just like my business, so too has it been for my writing as well.

When I first joined the WordPress experience, I could expect to find my work on the first or second page of a search using my pen name.  It wasn’t long before R. Richardsson’s Beneath the Headstone, and the many posts that it contained were the only thing on the first three pages!  How very exciting!

I continued to work hard on my posts.  I began writing webseries for my site to help further the cause.  (Oh, and because I also wanted to have free stories for you to read as well!)  And for months, I felt like the King of the hill.

But this has all changed.

I have read that Google has made changes in how its code works, that these changes make it harder for a person to be seen.  I completely understand that this is something built to help protect against the many, MANY scams that are out there, but what about the little man?  What about the entrepreneur trying to make an honest living?  What about the independent writer trying to get his or her name out there?

Maybe I’m thinking about this the wrong way.  Or am I?

I know that my work stands on its own.  It’s a testament to my efforts and I hope that you have enjoyed reading at least some of the stories I share with you.

I know that my work stands on its own, but it’s disheartening that you can’t find my pen name, either in written form or through images anymore.  When I talk about my work with people in passing, if I’ve sparked enough interest in them, they may go and try to find out more about this R. Richardsson character who writes Horror, Paranormal Fiction and Fantasy.  When they do, it’s as if I don’t exist.  If you search for my website, ‘Beneath The Headstone’, now that’s a different story.  At the time of this writing, there were at least three links on the first page alone!

I don’t claim to understand how Google figures its mechanics.  I try to use what little SEO knowledge I have to the best of my ability.  I don’t spam links to my site on people’s blogs, and when I comment on their own writing, I try to add something meaningful to their work.  I promote my work on social media, but I also try to inject a sense of myself into my posts/tweets as well.

I feel like I’m doing all the right things, but as far as Google is concerned, there isn’t a search result where my name rightfully belongs these days?  So the question remain; where did I go?

Well the answer is simpler than you think.  I’m right here, you see, right where I belong; Beneath The Headstone, in the boneyard of my mind, where all stories are given a second chance at life.

I do so hope that you (continue to) enjoy these little beasties I keep sending your way, because sooner or later, one of them’s going to get you.  And when it does, I hope it keeps you awake for many nights to come.

Or at least one.  One is good.