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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

[Goodbye 2010] My Year As A Writer

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past year as a “writer,” and I use the term very loosely, it’s this. There are a lot of us writers out there. Seems like everywhere I turn I run into one. It almost seems like a cliché. Lots of writers, bloggers, and novelist's.

Are there really that many writers out there? And what criteria must one meet to consider oneself worthy of such a title? I ask myself, am I one of those guys who fall into that category somewhere between being an actual writer and being a wannabe? In truth, I don’t really think of myself as a real writer, because to me, a writer is one who supports him or herself because someone pays them money to make stuff up. What I do know is that I’m trying like hell. I’m traveling that road and it’s not without roadblocks and landmines.

Another thing I learned about writing this year is that I’m a pretty shitty blogger. And it’s not because I don’t enjoy it, because I do. It’s because… okay, it’s because I don’t enjoy it. To be honest, writing a blog is hard work, and I’ve got mad love for anyone who can do this with even the slightest hint of regularity. Chuck Wendig I'm talking to you. Your blog is superior and it sets the bar to which all others should be judged. I've tried to blog faithfully, but I cannot. As you can see for yourselves my posts have been few and far between.

At first I’ll admit I had grand ambitions. I traveled to Lebowski Fest in Kentucky, I traveled to the Steve McQueen Festival in his home town of Slater, Mo with my son, Nick. I went to interview my buddy, author Marshall Terrill. He’s written 12 biographies from everyone including Sonny West [Elvis Presley’s bodyguard] to “Pistol” Pete Maravich. I met him a few years ago and he tried to hook me up with his agent. Needless to say it didn’t work out.

And who could forget my blog post about Black Hogan? I mean, C' mon. Everybody loves Black Hogan ===>

So I’ve made a few attempts and gained a few followers and just know that I’m grateful for the attention GOT PULP? receives considering the limited amount of posts which I offer.

And now to the point of this post. Not only was my blog starved for content, but I started thinking what a good year it’s been for me because of you. Because you follow my tweets or because you’re reading this now.

It was last December that I really started taking my writing serious. I started a blog. I set a few small goals, but never lost sight of the big picture. You don't get to the top of the ladder by starting in the middle. You start at the bottom rung like everybody else and you fight your way to the top.

I started making friends who were nice enough to point me in the right direction. I decided I’d try and write a short story or two. See if I could get them published. Since then I’ve had 12 published and another 8 ACCEPTED and ready to come out between now and next summer. I also Rewrote part of my first novel from waaay back in 2003, I began 10K on a western, 15K on a gangster story about life in the 1930’s, and now my current project. The one that’s been consuming me since November 12th. The current word count stands at 47,426 words as of yesterday, when I was interrupted mid-sentence by the State Patrol [more on that later]. I’ve been writing my ass off, but it’s come at a cost.

Two years ago I made roughly $140 THOUSAND dollar$ and this year I’ve made less than 2 grand. I also walked away from a job of 13 years and I was almost halfway to retirement. I could’ve been out at 48 years old with 2,500 a month and full benefits. Instead I sprinted from that facility at a pace that would have made any track and field coach proud. Now I face a future which is bleak and uncertain. But at least I know I'm alive.

Why in the fuck did I do this?

It was either the ballsiest thing anyone I know has ever done, or the stupidest thing anyone I know has ever done. And believe me, as I write this post in the freezing cold I’d be lying if I didn’t say at least part of me feels compelled to think the latter. Although most would agree a wiser course of action could be recommended, the absolute truth is you cannot put a price on a dream. I made $32.00 an hour in a time when everyone else was out of work, but I was a slave. Held captive only by the imaginary bounderies I allowed myself to believe existed. Either one day this writing thing will pay off or I’ll end up flipping burgers. But at the end of the day, I'll always know I tried.

All in all this past year has been a mixture of both good and bad. As a [cough] writer, I was happy to see so many good things happen for me. I think everyone trying to survive in the writing game ends up with one story that people seemed to remember them by, even months after it was published. For me that story is Have Chainsaw, Will Travel Published in Plots With Guns this summer. It seems to have gotten me hundreds of followers/friends on Twitter/Facebook and I see numerous references being made referring to me as that Chainsaw Guy.

How awesome is that? I’ve thanked Anthony Neil Smith a thousand times both in public and private and I’ll do it once more just to show him I’m not fucking around when it comes to my Thank You’s.

I’ve also been asked to do a few interviews. Here are two. and

Both of the interviewer[s] thanked me for being honest. They said it made for a good interview because I didn't hold anything back. Why would I? If you're not honest with yourself you're just boring. Fuck boring. Nobody remembers boring.

One of the shitty things that happened was getting the living fuck beat out of me by like 6 dudes and breaking my face. But I still managed to go to work everyday at my day job cutting down trees [with a chainsaw] until those pricks laid me off back in August. Of course, there was no unemployment money since I drew it out the last two years going to college, which I quit to take the chainsaw job which I no longer have.

So, here I sit. Alone in a big empty farmhouse. Freezing my nuts off in a pair of sweat pant, seriously thick writing socks, a stocking cap, an insulated hoodie, and the most badass pair of house shoes you’ve ever seen. And I’m throwing the words down like nobody’s business until my hard drive takes a massive dog shit at word count 45,217. I rush to my computer guy, beg him to literally stay after work because I have a novel trapped on my hard drive and nothing else in the whole world matters except the retrieval of that story. Oh yeah, I don’t have much money to pay you.

But he does, THANK YOU JOE! at JUST DIGITAL in Owensville, Mo. You truly are a computer Ninja and you really saved my bacon.

And it must be said, behind every struggling writer is a supportive partner. Whether it’s a husband, a wife, or a blow up doll. Without my wife, none of this would be possible. She believes in me so much she doesn’t want me to work. She wants me to write, knowing she’ll have to work overtime plus her days off if she has the chance. How do you say thank you for that kind of support? Partners of writers need their own paid holiday. If I ever become president I’ll see what I can do about that.

So that brings me to yesterday, typing my new novel with gusto! Writing with purpose, when suddenly I got that signal that only someone who’s had bad luck with the police can receive. Like a sixth sense, my internal fuzz buster went berserk. I turned around and there was a State Trooper walking in front of the kitchen window, headed towards my front door. And just as I was tending to a magnificent croc pot of homemade deer chili.

So I did what anyone with strong survival instincts would do. I immediately ran out the back door, through the yard, and around the house. I met him on the front porch, asked if there was anything I could help him with.

Rule #1 NEVER OPEN YOUR DOOR FOR THE POLICE. I’m telling you from experience. The first thing they’ll do is stick their foot inside the door so you can’t close it. TRUST ME. You open a door for a cop, he’s coming inside.

I asked him what he wanted? Told him my motorcycles hadn’t left the garage in months.

He suggested we go inside and talk [uh huh], but I told him I wasn’t comfortable having strangers in the house. Perhaps we should talk in the car.

“Okay,” he said.

So I told him I'd Be right back and I returned to the police cruiser with a tupperware container full of hot chili. I wanted him to know this wasn't my first time in a cop car and I can assure you with great confidence he didn’t know what to think about that. Before he left I had him run me down to the mailbox.

NOW, I can’t tell you what he wanted. All I can say is this crazy bastard was on a fishing trip. A fact finding mission to gather information and intelligence about something I may or may NOT have been involved in back in the late 90’s… so it’d be in my best interest not to say anymore. Obviously I’ve probably said too much already, but know that we went on to have one of the most interesting conversations I've ever been involved in.

And the whole time he’s telling me how good that chili smells.

I promise him it’s the best I’ve ever had, but I never offered him any. And in the end, in true asshole fashion, I left my plastic bowl in the car and pushed it back under the passenger seat with the heel of my badass house shoe.

Now before you think I’m some kind of complete asshole, let’s remember he was being tricky. Questioning me about things well after the statute of limitations has expired. His goal was to get me to confess to something I obviously didn't do. And he was accomplishing one thing and one thing only by talking to me, and that is wasting my fucking time. I’m a writer [remember] My time is precious. And I am now writing for survival.

Through a combination of well-worded emails and my natural bullshitting skills, I’ve managed to gain the attention of a very cool agent in New York. NO, he’s not repping me, but he said a few very nice things about me. And what he said was so heartfelt, genuine, and honest, it almost brought me to tears.

Yes, yes, I know. I’m the same guy that just said FTP! in the above paragraph, but the few kind words he said to me created a driving force that propelled me forward enough to write 48K+ words in three and a half weeks. Sure they might be shit, but I feel strongly it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. But of course, I probably always think that. Still, even if he hates my book, I love it. And his positive influence helped make it possible. His confidence in my ability inspired me to create a world full of make believe people. Then kill them all.

It's been a good year for me. Another big highlight was being asked to speak to a high school creative writing class, only to be rejected by the school board at the last minute once they googled me. Sad face. And I was really looking forward to that. Someone needs to teach our youth how to properly dispose of a body and I can tell you with a straight face that I've researched such things to greater lengths than any one man should.

If there's a writer out there reading this and it feels like you have a book in you somewhere, then FIND IT. What in the hell are you waiting for? I know life is full of twists and turns, but if you want it bad enough it all boils down to sacrifices and which ones you're willing to make. Just look how I’m doing it. In the cold, with no money, limited heat and food. Not to mention now I’m looking out the windows every five minutes for more cops to show up.

But I'm doing it in style.

So, if I can do it, YOU can do it. I'll have fresh writing coming out in the new NEEDLE Magazine, as well as the Crimefactory Special addition Kung-Fu Factory. Plus a short story in Crimespree Magazine next year. Please, buy them all! I’m proud of the accomplishments I’ve made in 2010, but more proud yet of the relationship’s I’ve made with other writers, publishers, editors, and agents.

Thanks for reading this. Happy Holidays mofo's,



Naomi Johnson said...

I should think you could get several novels just out of the events of this year alone.

Best of luck to you.

David Barber said...

You've had a pretty awesome year, Matthew, and I'm sure something big could happen. Keep at it , mate. We're all striving for that ultimate goal. The very best of luck for the future!!

Chuck said...

Wait, who told you I had a blow-up doll? Cat's out of the bag. And frankly, somebody better put that cat back in the bag before it tells the police about all the things I've been doing to that blow-up doll.

Awesome post, keep on keepin' on. Your writing has clearly, plainly, definitely improved over the course of this year, and that's incredible to see. You'll get your agent one of these days. May not be today, may not be tomorrow, but you'll have it in hand soon enough.

Thanks for the shout-out, by the by.

-- c.

Anonymous said...


They say a dream deferred is a dream gutted like a fish, or some shit like that. As one who deferred his writerly dreams FAR too long, I am in awe of your commitment. You got the chops, bro, and you're game is getting better each time out. Keep the faith. The next knock at the door will be the big time, not the heat. All the best for 2011, my man.


Gonzalo B said...

I am one of the people that enjoyed your PWG story and I've been visiting this blog ever since. A Western you say? Now that I’d love to see. What is it about? Are you planning to continue writing it?

Matthew J. McBride said...

Thanks for the kind words. Appreciate you taking the time to read & leave a comment. Naomi, "Iron Rod" O' Shea, CW, you guys are a few of my favorite literary ninja's.

David -- Thanks for the confidence. Anything worth having is worth suffering for if you want it bad enough. ==> I hope :)

Gonzalo -- The western is about 10 or 12K words.. I will definitely finish it, just prob not for a while. It's a classic revenge tale about cowboys smoking opium and slaughtering each other. If ya have any more questions about anything feel free to ask brother.

Jodi MacArthur said...

MJM ~ I have no idea how to respond to this other than
"HOLY SHIT". And yes, the hardest part of what we do is keeping alive while creating worlds. Something gives at some point. What that something is is different for everybody.

Keep the faith. Do whatever it is you gotta do. And hell... You have your words, your health, and your wife. Have a merry Christmas, bud.

John Rector said...

If you're working that hard and writing that many words, it's safe to say you're a real writer.

Really enjoyed Have Chainsaw, Will Travel. Good luck on the book.

Ron Earl Phillips said...

Dude, you're totally a writer. A writer writes, and you've been doing that in spades. A royal flush of a writer.

And your life is such fodder for the words you write it's only a matter of time until you're a paid writer, or author as some like to say.

I bet that cop went on down the road and thought "Damn, that chili smelled so good, I still smelling it up in here."

Maybe when his cruiser gets cleaned up in the garage he'll get a citation on leaving a messy tupperware container.

Have a great 2011. I hope mine is as good as your 2010. And like O'Shea, I've deferred that dream too long. I wish I had the balls to give it 100%.

Chris said...

Your commitment is inspiring, Matt. Keep it up!

chad rohrbacher said...

Rock on. And best of luck to your writing career in 2011 -- it'll happen, cause, well, your the chainsaw guy in badass house shoes

Christopher Pimental said...

Hell yeah.


Elizabeth said...

One of the best, most honest things I've read in quite some time. Can't wait to read that book, man, keep the pedal down. √

Marshall Terrill said...

Matthew, after reading this blog, I am now convinced you are indeed a writer. You've managed to encapsulate what every writer goes through, what every writer feels, the ups, the downs, going for your dreams and wondering if you made the right choice. In a very few short years, your writing has matured to the point where I've seen a huge difference. Keep on keeping on!

hairhaus said...

Of course your a writer. As I say that I hear a large Italian woman saying very emphatically, "Your a writer! Your mama told you your a writer, be a good boy. Go write." :)

Paul D. Brazill said...

Good luck to you mate! Life is short and pointless so do what you want! You're a smashing writer so why waste your fleeting moment on this planet living a half life?!

Jodi MacArthur said...


Matthew J. McBride said...

Jodi - Actually that's not even the one I was looking for. But regardless, YOU WIN. Get hold of me on Twitter or Facebook & we'll wrk out the details.

Carrie said...

"I have a story inside *it’s* pages"

Nice try. ;)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog man, and let me just say that I love it! Keep it up (the writing and the blogging)!

cdowdy said...

Cool post. You make me feel guilty for the lazy ass afternoons of Solitaire when I shoulda been writing.