At this time last year, Lucy and I were driving across the snowbound prairies toward Brandon, Manitoba.
We had a date with a donkey in Duluth a few days hence, and a week or so later, we'd arrive at my parents' homestead in Prince Edward Island, a few thousand miles distant.
I didn't write as much as I should have; my ninth book, GALE FORCE was to be published in May, and I was waiting to learn whether my publisher would agree to my proposed sequels.
In my mind, more books were a slam dunk. They'd paid me a small advance, part of which we'd recouped already through foreign sales. The early reviews were outstanding, and we had endorsements from an all-star team of writers in the genre.
With a little work, I figured we could easily earn out the advance and turn a profit. As it turned out, my publisher had a different view of the book, and of our future together.
In late April, I left Prince Edward Island, feeling a lot better about myself than I had when I left Vancouver in January.
I embarked on a spectacular month of travel that saw me visit the Yukon Territory for a week of author visits in remote rural libraries, and then GALE FORCE was released and I set out on a weeks-long tour of America, hoping to spread the word.
From a purely adventure standpoint, it was the trip of a lifetime. From a career standpoint, it was a sobering dose of reality.
I've never drawn big crowds to my book readings. Even by my standards, the attendance at my events on this tour was embarrassing. I felt terrible for the lovely booksellers who'd agreed to host me.
Worse, the book wasn't on shelves in the bigger chain stores. My publicist was working hard, as always, but I really felt as though the book was drowning without ever having been given a chance to swim.
I arrived in Vancouver on June 1st, exhausted and demoralized. A few days later, my publisher made it official: there would be no sequels to GALE FORCE, and no paperback edition. My relationship with that publisher was over.
I spent the next five months in a corner of paradise with some good friends, trying to enjoy the summer as I attempted to come to terms with the state of my career.
I have a book coming out in 2019, and another the year after, the first in what I hope is a long and happy partnership with another great publisher.
But financially, I was feeling a pinch, and I could see how that pinch was only going to get more and more painful unless I figured out a way to sell more books.
Clearly, a major change was needed in my approach, and I had big plans and ideas to bolster that change. But I felt as though I couldn't convince anyone to help, or even really listen.
I toyed with the idea of retiring from the game. This is a hard row to hoe, and it has kicked my ass. There are easier ways to make a living.
But mostly when I thought about retiring, last summer, it was part of a fantasy, wherein I'd stop writing and the industry would realize how much it had wronged me and everyone would beg me to come back and grace them with more books.
Obviously that's pretty stupid.
Nobody would really give a shit if I up and quit. I'm not saying that out of self-pity. I'm saying the world would keep turning, books would still get published, and I'd find a job in an office or on a construction site somewhere.
I'm saying if I'm not writing for myself, there's no reason to be here. Because 99.9% of the rest of the world doesn't give a shit if I (or you, or anyone who isn't James Patterson) write another book.
So retiring to teach the world a lesson is a pretty dumb strategy. I'd be cutting off my own nose to spite my face, as it were.
I still love writing. I have faith in my ability as a storyteller. I believe I can write books--and movies--that have commercial appeal.
The later months of this year were an exercise in frustration. I felt creative and productive and propelled forward by possibility. I wrote a lot. I developed a plan.
But damned if it isn't a hell of a lot easier to write something than it is to get someone to read it.
I guess the point of all of this is to say that I'm not retiring. Yet.
I'm back in Vancouver and I'm looking for a new apartment. At the very least, I'll be in the city into early 2020. Financially, I'm secure up to that point. I'm hoping to build a life with some semblance of permanence, for a year, at minimum.
And I'm going to write my fucking balls off while I'm here.
This is the year I'll leave it all on the field.
I will flog DECEPTION COVE to the ends of the earth and I'll keep writing other stuff while I do it.
If I have to self-publish, I'll do it.
If I have to produce my own movie scripts, I'll do that, too.
This is the year I leave no stone unturned to prove I still have a future in this business. I'll bust my ass, and I'll write a ton, and we'll see where things stand when the dust settles on 2019.
And if it doesn't work out, then I will walk away. Not to teach anyone else a lesson, but because I'll have done all I could.