I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

I waited far too long to quit my day job...

For a little over twenty years, I worked two jobs. Job one, of course, was writing. Even though twenty years ago I was unpublished, I was working hard to perfect my craft and spending a great deal of time writing, rewriting, critiquing, and submitting stories, usually for no money at all. Which is actually not all that different from my writing career now, if you change "no money at all" to "barely any money at all."

My second job was with what used to be called Kinko's, then FedEx Kinko's, then FedEx Office. It was a job I started for the sole purpose of being able to make all the copies I needed as a fledgling author. Authors starting out today may be surprised that once upon a time there was no such thing as email, and you actually had to send out printed copies of all your stories. I was sending out thirty or forty submissions a year back then. Free copies were a more attractive draw than you might imagine. And, Kinko's was only two blocks from my house. For the first three years of my job, I could walk to work. You'd be surprised at how much stress vanishes from your life when you don't have a morning commute.

Kinko's was a pretty cool place to work back then. Nearly everyone who worked there was in a band, or an artist, or a fellow author. There were a lot of creative people who talked about books and movies and music, and it felt sort of like being in college again. The pay was terrible, but in a lot of ways it didn't feel like work.

Later, FedEx bought the company, and it started feeling like work. All the hippies and artists got purged as the atmosphere became more corporate. Being able to genuinely form relationships with customers went out the window, replaced with rote scripts you were expected to recite to anyone who came through the door. Seriously, the number of training sessions I had teaching me how to talk to customers was astonishing. I can't count the times when a member of management would come up to me after I'd closed a deal with a customer and scold me for not using the "selling words" or whatever the latest code was for the scripts we were supposed to follow. The notion that I could ask a customer what she needed, she could tell me, and together we could match up our products and services to what she wanted without following an elaborate script seemed impossible for higher management to understand. Every day felt like I was living inside the movie Office Space.

Meanwhile, my writing career was taking off. One novel came out, then a few years of short stories appearing what felt like every month, then a long string of fantasy novels. Amazon came along and forever changed the self publishing landscape, changing self published fiction from essentially a money losing exercise in vanity into a viable career path.  I've sold far more copies of my self published work than I did my traditionally printed stuff, and got to keep far more money from each work sold.

And still I held onto the safety net of a day job I absolutely hated. The thing about big, faceless corporations is that they actually have decent benefits. Health insurance was a big one, and my 401k was another very attractive reason to keep plugging as long as I could.

A few months back, I finally turned in my notice. Part of it was weariness with working a job that made so little use of my talents. Part of it was being absolute sick of being expected to gouge every last dime out of customers. And part of it was the customers themselves. I say this as a person who has no doubt been a pain in the ass a thousand different times in customer service situations, but it wore me out trying to tell people how to do incredibly simple things like emailing a photo to us so it could be printed. Almost everyone who came into the store to do anything digital needed help doing the simplest tasks, like signing onto our Wi-Fi. But this was to be expected: If a person was digitally literate, they wouldn't be in a physical store placing a digital order. They'd order what they need online and have it shipped to their house for half the price of what we charged. Why anyone comes into an actual brick and mortar location any more to print photos is a mystery.

But in the end, the main reason I ditched the day job wasn't the frustration with it, but the feeling that I was missing opportunities to take my writing career to the next level. The people I know who are crushing it in self publishing just put out more books than I do. Many of them also did more appearances at conventions, and most had a larger social media presence than I did. I used to say that ten hours a week was all I needed to put out two novels a year. But ten hours a week isn't enough to put out four novels, attend 20+ cons, and do all the marketing that's needed to really stay competitive.

I just hate that I didn't quit my day job a few years earlier. My income from writing fluctuates from month to month, from really quite happy to holy cow this is horrible. But this isn't really about money. It's about doing what I love. No one will ever read the books I left unwritten during those years of working my second job. I'm going to do all I can to make sure that as many books escape my skull over the next few years as is humanly possible.

Monday, January 01, 2018

2017: A Year of Recovery and Adventure

Cheryl spent most of 2016 being treated for breast cancer. The worst of the chemo was behind her as we entered 2017 and we were eager to find out how fully she would recover her strength and stamina. Pretty fully, it turned out! We each logged over 1635 miles on Endomondo last year, the most distance we've yet tracked. February helped us set the pace, as we decided that month to walk every single day at least one mile. We travelled to Virginia, Maryland, and South Carolina in pursuit of new greenways, as well as finding new routes in North Carolina like the Railroad Grade Road near West Jefferson and a segment of the East Coast Greenway near Fayetteville.

For July, we had so much momentum built up that we decided to try to log 300 miles in a single month, easily besting any month we'd logged before her cancer. We've ended 2017 having gone further than we ever dreamed when we entered the year.

Next year brings a new challenge. Cheryl will have knee surgery in January, so her recovery from that will likely mean we're pursuing less aggressive goals for the first part of the year. Still, we look forward to getting back onto the roads, greenways, trails and rivers as soon as possible. We're still hungry to see sunsets, still longing to paddle through pristine waters, and eager to encounter more wildlife. Last year we saw more deer than we could count, herons, egrets, turtles, huge dragonflies, sharks, gators, and baby raccoons. What will 2018 bring? We can't wait to find out!