Another question I often get asked is whether or not any of my characters are based on me. I usually say that I'm a mix of Cooper and Tim. The Cooper in me is pretty easy to spot in all of my writing. The Tim parts of me are often noticeable here on my blog, in my ranting and "eat a dick" posts.
Perhaps the purest distillation of me that I've ever put on the page, however, is the "evil" cleric/pumpkin farmer from Critical Failures II. Here's a picture of me and my wife from ten or eleven years ago...
This was long before I ever dreamed of a writing fiction. Back then, my big plan was to own a bar. But in the meantime, we lived in the middle of nowhere, otherwise known as Gimpo, South Korea. We decided that a fun and healthy hobby would be to rent a plot of farmland and grow some shit.
The Koreans farming neighboring plots grew sensible crops like cabbages and cucumbers and whatever. I was more interested in having fun with it, and a guy I met on the internet offered me some North American pumpkin seeds, which I happily accepted.
What attracted me to pumpkins was that they grow fast and wild, and produce those big fucking monsters pictured above. I had no interest in selling or eating them. I did make a pumpkin pie and carve a jack-o-lantern for Halloween, but the real reward was just in watching them grow.
Now that we've moved to the United States, I've got the gardening bug again. There are a couple of easy to grow plants from Korea that I didn't want to discontinue eating, such as 깻잎 (Korean perilla leaves)...
and 고추 (Korean hot peppers)
Since then, I've gone into a bit of a frenzy, planting seeds of whatever fruit or vegetable we happen to pick up at the supermarket. I didn't have any luck with cherries or peaches. My bell peppers sprouted, but never grew more than a couple of inches tall. My cantaloupes grew like crazy, sprouting flowers, but ultimately not producing any actual fruit, so fuck them.
I did, however, have quite a bit of luck with avocado pits...
and lemon seeds...
Some of you might be wondering why all of my plants are in pots.
In the house we're currently living in, the only place which gets consistent sunlight is the driveway. Also, we're moving into a more permanent house in a couple of months, where we'll have plenty of space to put these babies in the ground so they can spread their roots.
More of you are probably wondering what the fuck any of this has to do with self-publishing.
The answer is not quite as straightforward. It's a case of similarities in how I approach each of these two endeavors.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes, but always try to keep learning from them.
I plant a lot of seeds.
Every novel or short story I publish, every blog post I write, every episode of Authors & Dragons I contribute to, every interview I give, these are all seeds I'm planting. Every one of them has the potential to generate interest in a person who has never heard of me. That person may like what they read or hear so much that they decide to risk their money and time on one of my books.
Some trees may produce less fruit than others, but that's okay. Just as a bird might eat some berries from the tiniest shrub in the forest, then shit the seeds out on some other part of the forest where they may better flourish, so too might a reader of this very blog post share the link with their friends, who in turn may be more receptive to dick joke laden fantasy stories.
Also, through the magic of passive income, even my under-performing titles generate a little bit of income every month. Enough of those add up to me being able to comfortably support my family without ever having to wear long pants or a pair of socks ever again.
So if you've found any of what I've said at all informative or entertaining, don't hesitate to shit those seeds.
I write what I want to write.
Some people recommend you write to market. Do your research, find out which genres are the biggest money makers or the easiest to compete in, and go for those.
Likewise, some people recommend you read up about soil acidity, and what kind of plants are more likely to thrive in your geographical location, and other such bullshit, rather than just shove some seeds into dirt and see what happens.
Neither of those are bad pieces of advice if you're strictly looking to make a living at writing or farming. But for me, the whole joy in being able to quit a "real" job and write for a living is that I get paid for doing what I love to do. Victorian Era Romance may be the hot genre right now (Or it may not be. I don't know.), but I think I'd rather go sell insurance or some shit than write that.
And maybe, after I transfer my plants to their permanent homes, I'll discover the reason that I've never seen an avocado orchard in southern Mississippi. If that's the case, then fuck it. I'll go back to raising them in pots. Bigger pots! Or I'll keep putting avocado pits in the ground until I find some mutant freak who thrives in this soil. Because, goddammit, I want to grow avocados.
Occasionally, I weed the garden.
I touched on this in a post I wrote a few weeks ago. I try to treat those who visit this website or like my Facebook page the same way I treat my plants. I respond to emails. I engage with commenters. I water them with content that I think is entertaining and/or informative. Twitter, of course, is an exception. I just kinda take a piss on there once a day and hope for the best.
But the object of a garden isn't to produce as many plants as possible, because some plants are weeds. And unless you tell those weeds to fuck off every now and again, they'll overrun the whole garden, sucking the nutrition-rich joy away from your fruit-bearing plants.
In my efforts to cultivate a garden full of intelligent, fun-loving readers who appreciate a well-placed fart joke, I occasionally touch on controversial subject matter. Maybe it's a blog post knocking Donald Trump, or having a go at homophobic shitheads. Or I might even write a whole story to poke fun at a group of hate-mongering fucktards.
The best part is, I don't even have to ban anyone. The weeds tend to uproot themselves and fuck off of their own volition. And yet my garden grows ever more fruitful.
Before the metaphor slips away from me entirely, let me get to my final point.
It takes time to produce fruit.
Creating great works of art is a time-consuming task. Getting those works noticed by people who want to pay money for them is at least equally as challenging. The chart of my Facebook page likes pictured above could just as well be a chart of the success I'm enjoying as a writer overall. Notice it's a slow, gradual rise. This shit takes time.
It might be five years before any of my avocado trees produce their first avocado, if that ever happens at all. But I'll keep at it because it's something that I enjoy.