I am starting to realize the uniqueness of every writer’s, indeed every person’s, walk in life. No two literary careers are the same, thank God. Otherwise you might as well simply be programmed virtually at birth and remain alive artificially while you go through the motions – like watching a film in which you are a participant but have no control over the plot. Each life is unique, and there are endless choices daily, large and small, that determine our destinies.
This year has been a long, strange trip. Two years ago I was in San Diego, having made the leap from Greece after spending thirty-five years abroad. At the beginning of the summer of 2013 we had moved to Yakima, Washington for two primary reasons: the rent and cost of living was cheaper and we were closer to relatives. Little did we know that though on a map the distance was short, in reality a mountain range separated us from relatives in Seattle, and we hardly ever saw them. We were iced and snowed in with bone-chilling winter weather. But before that, right after we had arrived, I got word that my son living and teaching in New York had had a dreadful accident and torn three ligaments in his knee. So my younger son and myself got plane tickets and went to him as fast as we could – he was still in the hospital awaiting emergency surgery – and spent most of the summer in his apartment in Brooklyn taking care of him and helping him convalesce. From thence, it was back to Yakima, school for my youngest, writing work for me, other labors for the other two sons who were living with me. And that winter – that god-awful cold, cold winter. The isolation, too. That was hard to take. But we made it. We survived.
Which brings us to 2014. The year began in the midst of the deep snow of Yakima, icicles hanging from the eaves. I was never warm there – never, for months on end. But even worse was the sense of loneliness. Several weeks ago I saw the movie “Interstellar” and I found myself sympathizing with the astronauts who had gone through a wormhole and were off in a far galaxy, hopelessly distant from loved ones. There was nothing to do there – no writers’ organizations, no organized science fiction fans. Don’t get me wrong – the people were friendly, at least in our experience, but there was no support whatsoever for my literary endeavors – no sympathetic souls. Not that I wander around seeking sympathetic company. A writer is, through the vicissitudes of his profession, alone most of the time. But even a writer occasionally needs some sort of reinforcement. There was nothing to keep us there. Nothing.
So when I came into a couple of thousand dollars at the start of the year, I determined to hang onto it and make the move to Seattle, one way or the other, even if it was tough, even if rents were higher, which they inevitably were, even if we had to continue to struggle in our present situation.
Compounding the difficulty was the fact that I could not afford to make the trip to Seattle to house-hunt. I couldn’t afford to stop working long enough, and I couldn’t afford the transportation costs. So I had to do all the house hunting online and by phone from a distance. I searched rental sites, e-mailed managers, made phone calls. Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier, I did have relatives there. One of my sisters mentioned an apartment complex she had passed that appeared nice. I looked it up. It was right in the city, in a nice neighborhood, and the rent was reasonable by Seattle standards. I e-mailed the manager; she was congenial and explained that she got hundreds of queries a month for apartments in the complex, and that if I wanted one I had to be persistent. She encouraged me to keep in touch and gave me her private e-mail address. I wrote her every day – note that: every day – and called her at least once a week. This went on for months. Every day she wrote back and apologized that nothing had come up. And then one day she told me a two-bedroom apartment had become available; it seemed that some of the previous tenants had lit out and the remaining one couldn’t cover the rent. I accepted it sight unseen, paid a deposit and money for background security checks.
In the middle of summer we made the move from Yakima to Seattle. We rented a truck and loaded up all the furniture that had been donated to us by relatives and friends of relatives. One of my brothers came to help us make the move.
It was a shot in the dark, but it turned out that the Seattle apartment, though rudimentary and in an old building, was adequate for our needs.
It was a relief to arrive in Seattle. Although the rent, utilities, food, and miscellaneous expenses are all higher here, I have more peace that we can get by. There are relatives around. There is a literary community. There are science fiction conventions, something I have never regularly attended but always wanted to and longed for from afar while in Greece.
So we spent the rest of the summer in Seattle and in the fall my twelve-year-old son enrolled in middle school. And things have generally been going well. I have been writing Internet articles to pay the bills. It’s not the freelancing I want to do; I want to support myself and my family with my novels and stories and memoirs. But it’s freelancing of a sort and that’s better than nothing.
In the midst of all this turmoil I have managed to stay productive. Recently rather than forsake my own writing completely, in lieu of lying in bed with the insomnia with which I am frequently afflicted, I have stayed up and produced fiction with a minimum nightly word count. This way in the last few months I have produced a novel, a novella, and a novelette. My published works for 2014 are as follows: one short story in an international anthology, four independently published short stories, one collection of dark fantasy short-shorts, two short collections of memoirs and essays, a novel, a full-length short story collection, and a collection of literary essays. Somehow, in spite of everything, work got done.
And for the coming year of 2015? I’ll keep working, keep producing. As far as I know, we will continue to abide in Seattle. A few interesting science fiction conventions are coming up that I plan to attend. I am rethinking some of my sales strategies as far as my novels and short stories are concerned. I am confident it will be a growth year. As Dean Wesley Smith wisely points out on his blog, it is important to set goals that are within your power, not dependent on the decisions of others. I can determine to produce work regularly at a certain number of words per day – unless something radically wrong like writer’s block or a family crisis ensues; but I cannot determine to sell a certain number of stories, because that is up to the decisions of others. So I will persevere. I will keep working. I am hoping for a turnaround, a surge of sales that will give me more independence and allow me to focus more on the writing I want and need to do. I have been too long in the game to expect overnight miracles, but I hope for progress. At least that. There’s no discharge in this war, as they say. There’s only one ultimate culmination to the struggle. May my hands be near a keyboard when I perish.