I’m a writer. I’ve spent more than a quarter of a century working on my craft. I have a master’s degree in English. I sit at my computer today with my vast linguistic palette and search for the precise combination of words to capture and convey both the experience and emotion of taking those tentative steps back into the world of dating:
It’s weird, yo.
I never did much dating when I was younger. My relationships tended to develop from friendships, or else through spending time with people in college or elsewhere. Then there’s the fact that I was married from 2003, and it’s been more than twenty years since I’ve tried to start a new romantic relationship.
Then there’s the grief of losing a spouse in 2019, and all the guilt and confusion and uncertainty to work through as a result.
Yet, as folks at ConFusion may have noticed, I seem to be dating again. It’s even progressed to a (gasp!) relationship!
There’s been a lot to think about and work through to reach this point. Starting with…
“You’re a horrible person who obviously never truly loved his wife and should feel nothing but guilt and shame and more guilt!”
Nobody has said this to me directly yet, I’m happy to say. But the unspoken message is out there. People talk about friends/family who lost a spouse and remarry. They also talk about people who lost a spouse and chose never to get married again. Those stories come with a strong current of romance and true love. They were so in love they could never replace their spouse, and they chose to wait until they were (depending on their beliefs) reunited with their one and only soulmate.
To be clear, I’m not judging either choice. Everyone has to figure out what works for them, and how they can best try to find some peace and happiness.
But I’ve felt pressured sometimes that if I really loved Amy, I’d pull a Princess Buttercup: “I will never love again.”
I don’t think Amy would have wanted me to be alone forever. Obviously, she didn’t want to get cancer, either. The goal was for both of us to live happily ever after. But since that’s no longer an option (fuck cancer!), I think she’d want me to eventually love again. Those who knew her best have said the same thing.
None of this magically makes the guilt completely disappear. But it’s not overwhelming, and it’s gone down to a point where it doesn’t seem to interfere with my new relationship. (Yay for therapy and support groups!)
That brings us to the next question.
How the frell do people date in 2021?
Having decided I was open to a new relationship, what next? We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and I’m working from home. But I’m told that the kids these days do a lot of their dating through the tubes of the internet. So I slowly set up a couple of profiles on different sites.
At first, I kept my own profile hidden. I was dipping the toes in the water, but I wasn’t ready to cannonball into this quite yet. I found a few people who looked interesting, a few that got instantly blocked, and a whole range in between. I learned a bit about what I wanted to include on my profile, what not to say, what kind of photos to use…
Eventually, I gritted my teeth and made my profile visible.
May the odds be ever in your favor.
Those dating sites have this stuff down to a science. All the different psychological tricks and temptations they use to get you to subscribe.
Well, they work. I ended up subscribing for a while so I could see who was interested and respond to some of them. I chatted with some people and eventually set up a first date with a woman in Ann Arbor.
Cue the panic. Where should we go? Do I drive to Ann Arbor, or should we meet in the middle somewhere? What do I wear? How do I introduce myself? Should I bring a gift? Flirting or no flirting? Do I even remember how to flirt? Does hugging happen at the end? What if there’s kissing? Am I ready for kissing?
One of the many things I liked about being married was not having to go on first dates!
Happily, it went very well. I did bring a gift — a little dog toy for her new dog that she’d talked about. We chatted for a few hours at a coffee shop. We hugged at the end, and talked about a second date. Go, me!
The second date was fun, but as we talked more, it didn’t really feel like there were sparks. At least for her. Me, I wasn’t even sure I remembered what new-relationship sparks felt like.
In search of sparks…
Over the next months, I dated three other people. The first one felt more like a crash and burn. The second was someone I really enjoyed talking with, but after two dates with her, I realized I was spark-free.
Then there was the third person. We went out to dinner and ended up talking until the restaurant closed. There were very nice hugs. And as I left that night, I realized this had been very different than those other dates. This felt like it had potential.
Building a new relationship. (Assembly required.)
She and I have been dating for about four months now, and it’s pretty darn great. She’s very different from Amy in a lot of ways, which means I haven’t felt like I was somehow trying to “replace” my wife. For one thing, she’s an extrovert, which has been interesting. She pushes me out of my comfort zone sometimes, but in a way that feels healthy as opposed to just uncomfortable.
One of the many things I appreciate is that she’s never been awkward or uncomfortable about Amy. We talked a little about my wife and what happened on the very first date, and we’ve continued to have those conversations. She knows I have some deep trauma there, but also trusts that I’ve been working to heal, and that I’m in a place where I’m able to and want to have a new relationship. She knows I’ll always love Amy, but doesn’t feel threatened by that. (At one point, I described it as a strange sort of polyamory, except one of the people in my triad has died.)
It’s not perfect. Nothing ever is. For one thing, she lives about 80 minutes away, so this has been mostly a weekend-based relationship. And we’re distracting each other from our productivity.
But so far, we seem to fit together really well.
Some interesting pitfalls
Grief and loss leaves a hole. I’ve tried to be very conscious about not trying to fit this new person into the space where Amy used to be. That would be unfair to her, unhealthy for me, and utterly ineffective. But after 15+ years of marriage, I have a lot of relationship habits, so I’ve had to pay attention and make sure I’m not doing things or acting out of those habits. Even little things like nicknames, what I say when we see each other or are getting ready to leave…
Then there was the realization that I was happy, and the fallout from that. This was relatively early on, and it came as a shock. Amy got sick in 2018, so it had been years since I’d felt this kind of happiness. Even if this new relationship doesn’t work out, I’m so grateful that it showed me there’s still the possibility for happiness. At the same time, it triggered another wave of guilt. My wife died. How is it okay for me to be happy? Even knowing it’s what she’d want for me. And it’s what I want for me, dammit.
And of course, there’s been the process of telling the kids and other friends and family that I’m dating now. That’s been awkward, but mostly positive. The response from Amy’s parents was so understanding and loving it almost made me cry. I think the kids find it weird, but they’re also happy for me. It’s a little harder for my younger daughter, since she’s still living at home, whereas her sister is away at college. I’ve tried to make it clear I’m not looking to replace mama, and whatever happens with me and this woman, she’s not going to be a new mother or anything like that. My youngest has met her a number of times, and seems to be getting a little more comfortable. (It’s still weird that her dad is dating, though!)
Any closing advice?
Maybe a little. Like I said, what’s right for one person might not be right for the next. This advice is as much a reminder to myself as it is for anyone else.
- Be patient and give yourself time.
- Know that the love for your former partner doesn’t end. (Talk about that with your new partner, too.)
- Know that guilt and confusion and sadness are all normal, and don’t necessarily mean you’re not ready.
- Therapy and/or support group: highly recommended. (As long as you’ve got a good therapist/group.)
- Let yourself be happy.
- Embrace the fear and excitement of the new and the different.
- Recognize that your ideal relationship now isn’t the same as the relationship you were wanting, say, fifteen years ago.
- Be gentle with yourself.
Welcome to my 14th annual blog post about writing income. I’ve been doing this partly to dispel the myth that writers are swimming in cash like Scrooge McDuck in his money bin, and partly as a data point to help newer writers get a slightly more realistic (I hope) idea what they might be in for.
Keep in mind that I’m just one data point, and no writer’s career is exactly the same as any other’s. But one datum is better than none, right? And if other authors do similar posts about their 2021 income, let me know and I’ll link those here:
- Dan Moren: My Writing Finances, 2021
In 2016, instead of a personal income write-up, I did a survey of almost 400 novelists about their income.
My Background: I’m a primarily “traditionally published,” U.S.-based SF/F author with 14 books in print from major New York publishers. The first of those books came out from DAW in 2006, and I’ve averaged more or less a book a year since then. (The past few years are an exception. I’ll talk about that later.) I have an agent, and have been with them since about 2004.
I’ve self-published a middle grade fantasy and a few short collections. I’ve also sold about 50 short stories to different magazines and anthologies.
I’ve never hit the NYT or USA Today bestseller lists, but my last five books have been lead titles for my publisher.
I’m currently a solo parent of a teenager (at home) and a 21-year-old (away at college). I work a half-time day job, partly for the paycheck, but mostly for the benefits. I would love to say I write every single day, but sometimes life has other plans.
2021 in Summary: I’m going to focus on the writing here, because otherwise I’ll spend the next 5000 words griping. I mean, come on — we didn’t even get Betty White celebrating her 100th birthday? F***ing 2021.
Okay, writing stuff. Right…
This was another slow year in terms of publication. Terminal Peace had been delayed already because of my family’s medical crisis throughout 2019. I got the book turned in back in September of 2020, but thanks to COVID and some business issues my publisher was dealing with, it won’t be published until August 2022. I think the only publication I had last year was a reprint of “Gift of the Kites” in Arcana.
I did, however, write a new middle grade novel my agent is shopping around, and I got about 90% of another book rewritten. That will hopefully be ready to go on submission within another month or two.
We also sold Russian rights to Tamora Carter: Goblin Queen, which was a lovely surprise.
So while I produced almost two books, 2021 was a year with no original Jim C. Hines publications, which is a bit frustrating and discouraging. It also makes the income numbers more interesting, at least to me.
2021 Income: The biggest check came from the Delivery/Acceptance payment for Terminal Peace. While I delivered that manuscript in September 2020, the payment didn’t make its way through the system and get to me until 2021. I’m kind of glad, because otherwise this year’s numbers would be a lot more depressing.
Royalties from my audio publishers and my U.S. publisher made up the next most significant chunk.
In total, before taxes, I brought in $24,243.50 in writing income. That’s down more than $7000 from last year, which isn’t terribly surprising. It’s still better than I did in 2019, aka The Year From Hell.
Here’s the trend graph going back to 2002. (2006 is when Goblin Quest came out from DAW. That was my first book from a major publisher, and I consider it a turning point in my career. You can see the numbers start to jump after that year.)
Expenses were between $500 and $1000, which is a lot less than last year. I was also paying quarterly estimated taxes, which came out to a couple thousand dollars.
2021 Income Breakdown:
Patreon continues to be a small but helpful source of income. My thanks to everyone for that!
The “Other” category is things like the honorarium I received for doing Grand Rapids Comic Con, payment for a session I did at a different convention, and so on.
Interestingly, the short fiction total is almost exactly the same as last year. Almost all of that comes from ongoing royalties for a story I did for Shadowed Souls a few years back.
- Novels (U.S. editions): $15,400.64
- Novels (Non-U.S. editions): $2167.16
- Self-Published: $1707.45
- Short fiction: $232.49
- Audio: $2090.69
- Patreon: $1620.07
- Other: $1025
Looking Ahead: I’m keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly with Terminal Peace and the book comes out on schedule.
As for my own goals, I’d love it if the middle grade book my agent is shopping around actually found a home, but we’ll see. If not, I may look into another Kickstarter like I did with Goblin Queen in 2020. I’m pretty confident we’ll be able to sell the standalone fantasy I’m finishing up. I also have an idea for another new middle grade fantasy I’d like to try.
But really, I just want to get through 2022 with my health and sanity, you know?
I hope this has been helpful. As always, feel free to share the post and ask any questions. And if you know of anyone else doing an income roundup, let me know in the comments and I’ll add those links to the post.
One of the nice things about 2021 was that I finally seemed to get enough of my brain back to start reading novel-length work again. So I figured I’d chat about some of the highlights…
Nectar for the God, by Patrick Samphire. This is the sequel to Samphire’s Shadow of a Dead God, which I reviewed back in June 2020. Like the first book, this is quick-paced epic fantasy, following down-on-his-luck wizard Mennik Thorn as he once again gets in over his head with pretty much everyone and everything. This one had a darker tone, an almost Lovecraftian layer of deep, forgotten magic and gods. It also gives us more of Thorn’s background and what he went through with his mother, the high mage known as Countess. Overall, a bit grimmer than the first book, but still a fun read.
A Study in Honor, by Claire O’Dell. A near-future story about Doctor Janet Watson and the brilliant agent Sara Holmes. I really liked this take on Holmes and Watson, particularly the way it shows Watson working through the traumatic aftermath of her experiences in a modern U.S. civil war. Holmes is presented as a more mysterious character — a mystery Watson works to solve — and that approach worked for me. My one disclaimer is that if you own a MAGA hat and believe Trump won the 2020 election, you probably won’t enjoy this one.
The Purloined Poodle, by Kevin Hearne. This is a shorter book set in Hearne’s Iron Druid world, but told from the point of view of Oberon, the protagonist’s Irish Wolfhound. There’s a mystery plot and some magic, but the best part is the sheer fun of Oberon’s narration. Scheming for treats, watching out for suspicious squirrel activity … anyone who loves dogs will probably enjoy this one and the sequel.
A Game of Fox and Squirrels, by Jenn Reese. This is a powerful middle grade fantasy about an eleven year old girl who’s moved out of her parents’ home, and has to come to terms with the abuse she and her sister faced there. She starts out just wanting everything to go back to normal, and she discovers a magical quest that could grant her wish … but that wish comes with a cost. Her quest and the eponymous card game she learns about show different patterns of abuse and power and control. I know I said this already, but it’s a very powerful book.
This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. An award-winning love story between time traveling agents on opposite sides of an ongoing war. It’s beautiful and poetic and playful and dark and ultimately quite satisfying. Not a traditionally commercial page-turner, but very rich. I had to read this one more slowly.