Getting Real

I used to write a lot of crime and horror fiction and the horror, especially, was pretty dark. While there were often supernatural elements involved, much of the horror was derived from human behavior. These were not cheery little stories. I placed a lot of these stories in anthologies—almost none of them offering pay—and then I put them up on Amazon in case someone wanted a quick shot of short horror to read during lunchtime or on a bus.

I didn’t sell many of these stories.

That was disappointing because I actually thought some of those horror and crime stories were pretty good. And I’m a harsh critic of my own work.

I continued to write my crime and horror stories—because I really enjoy the genre but I noticed that sometimes when I finished one of my dark stories, I’d feel a little depressed and not with the creative post-partum depression that you get.

I’d be feeling cranky and wouldn’t be able to put my finger on it.

And then one day my brother asked me if I ever wrote any happy stories.

And I realized I didn’t.

I really didn’t.

My stories didn’t have happy endings, they had twist endings. My plots weren’t just cynical, they were misanthropic. My characters didn’t just have flaws, they were flawed. Deeply flawed in most cases.

And their stories were depressing. Deeply depressing in some cases, as several reviewers pointed out when I published them in a collection called Toxic Reality. I’ve since pulled that collection, along with one called The Poisoned Teat because the reviewers were right.

I kept writing my dark little stories and while I could give them away, nobody seemed that interested in actually paying for one.

And I started thinking.

Maybe no one reads my stories because they aren’t the kinds of stories people want to read.

Could it be?

Maybe another writer would have decided that she simply wasn’t very talented and given up altogether, but I really didn’t want to come to that conclusion. So rather than quit, I decided to do something radical. I decided to stop being self-indulgent and act more like a professional.

be-a-happy-writerI decided to lighten up.

Maybe that sounds like selling out but here’s the thing—I’m a full-time freelance writer. I actually pay my bills with my writing. You know those ebooks on trending topics like “oil pulling” and the latest new diet? I write those. I also ghost-write blog posts for several social-media impaired clients, and write white papers and reports.

It’s just as exciting as it sounds, and when a client says she wants forty thousand words (plus recipes) to help sell some new kitchen gadget, I don’t have the option to say, “Sorry, I’m not feeling it. How about I write an expose on conspicuous consumerism and pricey kitchen gadgets instead?”

So as I said, two years ago I decided to lighten up. I’d always written fantasy and romance under my pseudonym Kat Parrish and I started spending more time with the fantasy and romance and less time with the crime and horror.

And a funny thing happened.

Beginning with a Cinderella spin on a vampire tale I called Bride of the Midnight King, I started selling my fiction. And not just to people related to me. Although my best friend’s mother read it and recommended it to all her friends.

I wrote another fairy tale, this one only a novelette, and it started selling too. An anthology that had accepted a futuristic fairy tale from me fell apart before publication and I put that up for sale as a stand-alone too. That one doesn’t sell as well, but people in the Kindle Select program seem to like “borrowing” it.

I’m now finishing up a contemporary romance that I’m publishing just before Christmas. It also has a Cinderella spin but it’s not completely devoid of reality. There are Syrian refugees and LGBT characters and people who die too soon. But in the end, what it is, is a bright and shiny love story that suits the season. I hope it will sell but who knows?

The one thing I do know for sure is that it made me happy to write it.

I’ve come to believe in the validity of an old bumper sticker sentiment, “Reality is for those who lack imagination.”