After I returned from Miami, hanging out with Christian Slater, who turned out to be my biggest fan, I began work rewriting his screenplay adaptation of my first published novel, Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me.
I had a contract with his agency and everything. Concurrently, I had enough freelance writing work to quit my weekend gig as a tiki bar bouncer. I was all set.
Cue the violins.
Months go by. Despite rewrites, positive meetings with money people, and the republication of the original novel (which was out of print) featuring Christian’s likeness on the cover, the movie deal stalled.
Then just when that fabled light was about to turn green due to some sudden progress on the financing front, Christian was cast in a television series called Mind Games. It was cancelled after five episodes aired. I can’t say I was disappointed, though I did feel bad for him.
But then he almost immediately scored an award-winning role on Mr. Robot, which is a bona fide hit. I’m very happy for him, but unfortunately, after coming so close we could taste it, our project is back on “indefinite hiatus,” a polite way of declaring it all but dead.
Maybe it will rise from its grave again, like a stubborn zombie, but meantime, I needed to move on.
My next setback was suddenly losing my full time writing gig for a company I won’t name, but that turned out to be mired in controversy and corruption, forcing its abrupt closure. This was the similar fate of the movie theaters that employed me for well over a decade, prior to this.
Now what? I was nearly fifty years old. I had to make a change, since I was suffering from possibly fatal creative and personal stagnation, and I couldn’t rely on anyone else to make it happen.
So I convinced my wife to sell our beachside condo, which we could barely afford now anyway, given my unstable situation, and move to my dream city: Seattle.
What can I say? I love rain, and California was in the midst of its historic drought. It was the only logical destination. And a writer’s environment is crucial to his or her productivity.
Since she had always wanted to go back to school to earn her advanced degree in her field of interest, at my urging she applied to the PhD program at the University of Washington, and against overwhelming competition, was accepted. I was not surprised. This was all part of my clever relocation strategy, along with the fact her best friend from Berkeley already lived in the Emerald City.
When we moved here in the summer of 2014, I had no steady job and no prospects. My movie deal had been my retirement plan, and now that was seemingly gone forever. Though I was in love with my new environs, ideally suited to my tastes, I had no idea what to do next.
My self-published novels as well as my one published novel from a small press, the reissue of Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me, were hardly enough to sustain me. My wife was busy with school, so I had to pull my own weight somehow.
I applied for every job imaginable that might accept me, but for each I was either under or over qualified, even gigs in my area of expertise. My skill set was limited, however. I loved nothing more than writing, and I wasn’t as good at anything else, either, probably due to my single-minded dedication.
The only other thing I loved as much as writing was animals, but no way I was training to become a veterinarian. I’m not medically inclined, despite my experience as a blood bank delivery driver. That’s as close as I could get, besides actually selling my own plasma, which was also a brief income source. I needed to find something else, but what? All my job applications were ignored, except for one: I was turned down for a job delivering pizza, but they did send me a free coupon as consolation.
One positive development: soon after relocating, I was hired to write this very blog. It’s very gratifying. But still, not quite enough to get by.
Then my wife pointed out a post in our community newsletter about a neighbor needing a dog walker.
Two years later, I am walking so many dogs on a regular basis (as well as pet-sitting cats and other animals), via both word of mouth and Rover.com, I hardly have any time to write. Though I’ve published three books just since moving here, including a brand new Vic Valentine novel called Hard-Boiled Heart (Gutter Books, 2015), directly inspired by my experiences with the ill-fated movie deal. I also founded my own imprint, Thrillville Press.
I’ve never been happier (if not quite content), if only for the peace of mind this totally unexpected occupation brings me. Dogs are the best company. This gig not only pays the bills, but it’s very therapeutic, even if I do ponder what might’ve been as I walk them.
I also consider what might yet be. That’s the key. If you want to be a writer, you create your own opportunities, but also take them as they come, even if they aren’t on your bucket list.
Like hosting workshops at a writer’s retreat in Costa Rica, all expenses paid.
I’ll report in full when I return. I can’t wait to see my canine clients again. I miss them.
The moral of this story? Never give up, even if things don't turn out exactly how you expected. Otherwise, you'll be denying yourself results that may not be as rich, but are just as rewarding in their own special ways.
PHOTO: WILL VIHARO