17 December 2018

Round and Round He Goes

by Steve Hockensmith

I had one simple goal for 2017: Write and self-publish a new novel in my old “Holmes on the Range” series. And I did it! At the very end of 2018. The book, The Double-A Western Detective Agency, came out a couple weeks ago, a year behind schedule. Hey, better late than never, right?

Now I have one simple goal for 2019: Write a book someone else will publish. Not that I expect anyone to actually publish it in 2019. You know how slowly publishing works. So you can mark your calendars for my publication day launch party...if, that is, you already have your calendars for the super-futuristic-sounding year 2022.

Finishing the book and selling it — that’s my new year’s resolution. Which is kind of like saying your new year’s resolution is to lose 10 pounds and be crowned queen of Venus. The first part is entirely in your control. The second part not so much.

Of course, there are things you can do to improve your chances for both. Watch what you eat. Exercise. Practice breathing carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid. Move to Venus. Find some Venusians. Convince them they need a queen. Perfect your queen wave.

But it doesn’t seem very likely, does it? Even if an old pro were to try it — Queen Elizabeth, say — the odds wouldn’t be in her favor. I mean, I know she’s a tough old broad who’s been through a lot, but even something as straightforward as “Move to Venus” might be beyond her at this point. No offense, Brits!

So yeah, I’ve written and sold books, but I’m not going to assume I can do it again. It’s not the writing I’m worried about, although I’m leaning toward the old Monty Python approach.

What worries me is the queen of Venus part, a.k.a. selling a book. It stirs up that old debate most writers know so well — the one between the artsy angel on one shoulder and the money-grubbing devil on the other.

Art: Follow your heart. Write what you love.

Commerce: Pah! Don’t be a fool! Write what will sell.

Art: You became a writer because of your love for stories. Let that be your guide now. Commit to the idea that excites you the most.

Commerce: You know what idea excites me? “I can pay the mortgage this month.” Thrilling, right? Commit to that, dude.

Art: There’s no guarantee you’ll succeed even if you try to follow the path of least resistance. All writing is a gamble. You might as well roll the dice on something you love.

Commerce: All writing is a gamble, yeah. Which is why you shouldn’t double down on sucker bets. You’ve got to know when to hold them. Know when to fold them. Know when to walk away and know when to run.

Art [bursting into song]: You never count your money when you’re sitting at the table...

Both [singing]: There’ll be time enough for counting...when the dealing’s done.

[Both laugh, embrace, sigh.]

Art: What were we talking about again?

I guess my angel and devil are easily distracted. Like me. But I like to think they can actually agree on something. And not just Kenny Rogers songs. Maybe there is an idea for a book that’ll satisfy both Art and Commerce — that can be both a passion project and a smart play. Hopefully I’ll find out next year.

Place your bets now, ladies and gentleman....


  1. Good luck. Nice about your new novel. WIsh you the best with it.

  2. Congratulations on your DoubLe A Detective Agency novel and good wishes for writing in 2019. We all need ever more luck than ever!

  3. Thanks, guys! Since writing that post I've already changed my mind twice about what I should write next. So imagine how many times I'll change it before 2019 actually begins. I've got two whole weeks of flip-flops to look forward to. Oh, well...happy holidays!

  4. Steve, you've still got it, so best of luck in your next endeavor.

  5. Congratulations on Double A Detective Agency. Hope it sells well.

    As for Art and Commerce, they should both know the only good publisher/agent is one that buys your work. All the others are blind fools, and they outnumber the good ones exponentially.

    But good luck anyway. Do they really have a Queen on Venus?

  6. I needed this, this morning. Great post!

    Congrats on the new book, Steve! (Wonderful title, but you're always good with titles.) Good luck with it!

  7. Art and Commerce are like Siamese twins. When they try to go in different directions, they rarely go anywhere, but when they work together...

  8. Thanks for the votes of confidence and good advice, guys! I really like that outlook on Art and Commerce, Michael. We'll see if I can get them pointed in the same direction....

  9. Congratulations on your new novel. As far as write what will sell/write what you love debate - why not do both? At the same time? I always have at least 3 stories in various stages of production, and that way when I run into a wall, I can turn to one of the others for comfort.

  10. I'm a super-anal, one-thing-at-a-time kinda writer, Eve. Plus, I'm so slow I feel like I have to stay totally focused on a project if I'm going to finish it before I lose enthusiasm for it. That's one of the things that's sort of amazing about the new "Holmes on the Range" book: I actually walked away from it for months and months and almost started another novel instead, which normally would be the death knell for a project for me. But I circled back to it and actually finished it. I'm hoping the next book -- whatever it is -- will have a more straightforward, streamlined, efficient writing process. We'll see if I get that lucky!

  11. Great blog post and again, congratulations on the new Holmes On The Range novel!!! What a luxurious moment -- in a way -- to be at that pondering point after successfully launching a new book.

    Whatever you choose to do will be fabulous, good fun!

  12. Your angels sing? In harmony? Well dang, as Holmes might (or probably not) say.

    Love those Holmes on the Range stories. Congratulations, Steve!

  13. Double A Detective Agency arrived last Friday & my plan is to read it as a Christmas present to myself. So I thank you for the present & I look forward to receiving another one in the not too distant future...I'm not getting any younger.

  14. Thanks for the congrats, y'all! And, Don -- I'll try not to make you wait *too* long for another "Holmes on the Range" adventure. But I can only write so fast. I'm not getting any younger either!

  15. By the way, Steve. Two of the books I read this year that I put on my "best reads of 2018" for the Dorothy-L email listserv are A Crack in the Lens and The World's Greatest Detective.

  16. Thanks a million, Don! I'd show my appreciation by naming a character in my next book after you, but given the kind of stuff I write some people would probably consider a guy named "Mr. Coffin" too on the nose....


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