So, it’s been a long, quiet summer. A long, quiet spring. A long, quiet year.
This is the point where I stand up and declare … a new book is out! Buy now! But, alas, that’s not what this post is about.
You may not know this, but I write under pseudonym. Kenneth A. Mugi is not my real name. It’s a play on my last name in Japanese with my grandfather’s first name slipped in. I used it (instead of my own) because I wrote a semi-autobiographical story in The Tragic Demise of a Game Developer. I needed the protection an alias provided. I didn’t think about it much beyond that in all honesty.
I wasn’t in this for the cash. I was in this for the rage. Not the rage of being an indie author, but because I was enraged. I was mad at work, mad at life, and I took that fury and wrote. I write when I’m angry. I write when I’m spitting sinister soliloquies under the night sky. I take the darkness churning in my soul and use it to scream words until I can tie my imagination down in paper form.
Back then I wrote because … I could. Before The Tragic Demise of a Game Developer, I’d written 3 novels and an anthology of short stories during my time at uni. Before the internet revolution happened, before there was a place to market them. So I knew I could do it, hell, I’d already done it.
Let’s not mince words though, they were awful. Eye destroying, burnt out crap which would’ve been mocked in the slush pile. Someone has a copy of them somewhere, I feel sorry for them. I wish to avert their eyes and promise I’ll get better. That I am better.
So I wrote and edited in a rage, and my job didn’t change. So I wrote some more. I wrote a supernatural YA. Got a good review for it too. (Thanks Midu.) I wrote the sequel and didn’t like it. My wife (who is my before-market critic) didn’t like it either. So it got shelved. I wrote a high-fantasy novel.
In total, I probably wrote around 240,000 words or something that year. I honestly don’t know know how much because some of the edits were extensive and I don’t add edits in my word counts.
Despite my delusions that I would get rich and swim in greenbacks (things that I knew were delusions), I didn’t think any of it through. I was a mad rapper with a corner block and a voice that hollered.
Yet, I joined a writer’s group soon after that because … I met the President of a writer’s group during the course of my job and she was … really nice. Amazingly nice. You don’t meet people that nice very often. And she was kind and invited me.
So I went. And I took my bag of anxiety with me. And I met people. Let’s say most of them were nice. Let’s say a couple of them were nice at the start, but turned into something else at the end. Let’s say that overall, despite some really not great experiences with (only) a couple of people there, I had a pretty good time overall. I still do. I still love my writer’s group.
Will do it again. Heart them all, even the two I had conflicts with.
The thing is … and this is the thing … when you write for no reason, when you invest your time and energy in something to escape your demons, some people don’t understand that. They’ve got their goals, they’ve got their ambitions and their targets. They have all these plans, and you’re not… you’re not playing the same game. And if you have any skill (which in my case is debatable), somehow they don’t know what to do with you. It’s as if you’re a mercenary who heads into a combat but doesn’t ask for coin when payment is due.
That kind of action is stupid to them. They need to help you. They need to put you on a path. The righteous path, the path laid with silver. That path filled with gold.
Except, I was on a path. I didn’t know it then, but I was on a path out of my inner hell and they were trying to turn me around. They wanted me to trudge back to the demon dog and steal its purse.
They almost got there, and who knows, maybe it would’ve been for the best. Maybe I’d be rich now. The problem is / was I’m stubborn. I know this. I’m stubborn because I’m cynical and I’m cynical because the world is shrouded in fog. People even more so. Self-awareness about this doesn’t excuse me, it just means that I know part of myself and I live with it. Like I live with all the demons screaming in my mind. The thing is when you tell someone that X is part of you, you need them to believe you.
You are asking them to draw lines around the activities they want you to undertake and when they don’t, when they continue to push you against your will, you give in and let that cold core become you.
You get mad, you get angry, you get furious and yell at the stars in the heavens because you’ve opened your heart to them so that they don’t accidently put in a situation which could push you to your breaking point. And if you’re like me, then in these hours you write.
The seas of tumult become nothing more than words etched through the lines of the cosmos. You see nothing, you hear nothing but the faint whispering of the fantasy land. When you sweep your net into the sea of ideas, it comes back full. Nanowrimo? Fuck that shit. Finish it in a week.
I wrote the first draft of The Salvation of Yellow in 7 days. I wrote a 50,000 novel in 3 weeks while working a 16-hour-a-day job and with only 3 hours of sleep a day.
Because I was mad. Because I was going to tear through the universe and put my foot down God’s throat.
And when that same someone decided to be an asshole to me because, y’know, they didn’t uphold their end of a bargain they’d made with me, and I was being pulled apart by the cosmos, I just gave up. I dismantled everything I had to do with them and drifted.
The thing is … I’m still drifting. Sure, I finished The Salvation of Yellow, but that was mostly due to latent fury. I’m not consumed with a tinge of red now, I’m here. I’m being more careful with my triggers, I’m keeping my barriers higher and my vigilance keener. I’ve learned. Perhaps.
Yet the problem is that in this “good” state, a state where I can live, I don’t write. I don’t edit. I don’t need to run and hide and trundle into fantasies. I work on practical things. The things that have to be done.
Right now I live in Japan and if you’ve read any of my acknowledgements you’ve probably figured out that my wife is Japanese. It’s likely we’ll be here for a while. Perhaps forever which means I need to work on my (dismal) Japanese. That’s a more important life goal than creating novels which may or may not succeed.
Being a good teacher (the profession I earn my dollars from) is another excellent practical goal. Practical, cynical. Me.
Losing weight, spending time with my wife: all important things. Reading books, playing video games: all good things.
And the Kenneth A. Mugi name, it doesn’t quite work. It does, but it doesn’t. I don’t want to write under my name. I think there’s a narcissistic danger in that. Yet, I do want to write and Kenneth A. Mugi is great, but he needs to be separate from the genres I create.
With that in mind, I launched an experiment based on the idea that a traditional, white male name would obtain more sales. Actually, the idea that a white name would obtain more sales. And, I’ve got to say, they were right.
I released the same novel: The Salvation of Yellow, under two different names and with two different titles.
They didn’t do well, not by a long stretch, but The God Thief outsold Borrowed Gods by about 2:1. And Borrowed Gods outsold The Salvation of Yellow by about 3:1.
To whatever side of the debate you’re on that data can mean a lot of things. What it does mean, however, is that I need to switch things up. I need to make some changes.
As such, here’s what’s going to happen:
- Kenneth A. Mugi will be used for stories based on my biography. Tales set in real life. It will also be used for short stories with my writing group because … why change now?
- Alexa Robertson will become my Y.A. / contemporary issue persona. I’m not sure what I’ll write under her, but eventually He was a hero will be re-released under her name.
- William J. Grant will be the sci-fi fantasy guy. I’ll start transferring all the fantasy titles under him soon. For the next few months though, I’ll keep my little experiment going and see what the results turn up.
Also, I’m going to go black for a while. Not on this site, but in regards to novel and novellas being published. I want to have a series of works to release within a certain time window. A novella a month or something like that. I doubt this will lead to increased sales and writerly freedom, but I want to do it right. I want to take a few extra months and have everything prepared for a tight launch.
Why? Why am I telling you all this? Simply because it’s unlikely I’m going to get angry again. Those days are over and I have to be realistic: this is who I am, this is who’ve always been. And this is what I can bring to the writing world. I wish it was more, but my hands are small and my skills meagre.
A big thank you to Midu (if you’re reading this) who took a chance on my works and reviewed them. I didn’t expect such good reviews (although I hoped for them), but I got them and they helped give me the confidence to continue. Thanks.
A big shout out goes to Allan Walsh as well. Like his site, enjoy his journey. He’s a great guy and gives great feedback.
Also, a big thank you to the 99% of the writing crew I roll with and still roll with. You’re beyond awesome, stay sweet.
(Kenneth A. Mugi)
P.S: The good news? I’ve created some bad-ass covers over the years. Check them out:
(All stock images are licensed from Dollar Photo Club. Copyright of their respective creators. Stock images were purchased under the Standard Royalty License Agreement and modified by myself.)