After three years of (for me) relative productivity at thekeyboard, followed by a disastrous year, it seems appropriate to look back andsurvey the ground covered by this little literary adventure and take stock ofthe lessons learned along the way.


In 2020 I gave myself permission to write The Comfort ofDistance. Writing was something I wanted to do ever since I was in middleschool (if not even earlier), but never thought I could do, or should do.Besides, what did I have to write about? It only took a career in forensicscience and a couple hundred friends, acquaintances, and students to ask aboutmy cases for me to realize that maybe I do have some worthwhilematerial. I realize that a more creative person wouldn’t need lived experienceas a source of inspiration, but I think I’m better off for it. Anyway, withthat box checked — I would use my real forensic cases as the “skeleton” onwhich to build a narrative (pun totally intended) — I just needed to fill inthe rest. And, although I had no idea who my characters would be, I knew that Iwanted anxiety to feature prominently for one of them. I also had the titlechosen. In fact, the phrase “the comfort of distance” had been bouncing aroundin my head for years.


Everything else came via two months of frantic writing inearly 2020. In the process I discovered that I am not a “planner,” that is awriter who outlines the story; no, I’m a “pantser.” I have little or no idea ofwhat scenes come next, who did the crime, or even what the crime was, until thevery end. I build the story by the seat of my pants. It may sound risky, but sois locking yourself into a strictly confined set of parameters and pre-plannedplot points. I need more wiggle room. Or maybe it’s my pathological demandavoidance, my “you can’t tell me what to do” attitude. Or, in this case, Ican’t tell myself what to do (when I was in college, I registered for acreative writing course but lasted less than a week. The professor keptinsisting that there was only one right way to write fiction. I stronglydisagreed and huffed out. My self-righteous indignation was based on zeroexperience or personal knowledge, but it just didn’t feel right to confinecreativity to a set of arbitrary rules. In retrospect, I probably should havestayed). It turns out that flying by the seat of your pants does have itsperks: watching your characters unexpectedly fall in love or your plot holesfill themselves is a great feeling.


The Comfort of Distance was something of a success,though it was not going to send me into retirement, or even on a fancyvacation. But the vast majority of ratings were quite high, the editorialreviews were positive, and the sales far exceeded the sales of the averagetraditionally published book. Not too bad for the first piece of fiction I’dever written. More importantly, I learned that writing brought me joy and doingit felt right. People talk about getting into a flow state, or hyper-focusing,or being “in the zone.” Take any of those things, add a sack full of gratitude,and a dash of exhilarating exhaustion and you will just begin to understand howI felt during the writing process. I hadn’t experienced anything like thatuntil I finally followed the inner voice that told me I should bewriting. Let that be a lesson to anyone who has a passion they’ve been puttingoff.


I wrote The Boxwood Torso the following year,choosing to write a follow-up to The Comfort of Distance mainly becauseI was so curious about how those characters would change and grow. Plus, Istill had plenty of cases from which to draw, and one of the most memorableinvolved a torso in one county and a skull in another. Voila! It all played outthe same as the first book, except that the reviews were even better. So Far, Imust admit that The Boxwood Torso is my favorite of the Sebastien Greybooks. I think that’s because I made fewer mistakes and felt more confident inmy writing. It was also fun to see Sebastien and Tiffany get closer, which madefor some scenes that were especially fun to write.


In 2022 my wife and I took our travel trailer toYellowstone. It was a trip we had planned and reserved a full year previously.I had just left a toxic, soul-draining job, and was in much need of time away.Our anticipation at being surrounded by tall trees, clean air and beautifulscenery was palpable. Alas, we were there less than a day when we, and everyoneelse in the park, were told to evacuate due to the flooding. It was surely adisappointment, but my own chagrin was tempered by the knowledge that thousandsof our fellow evacuees came from much further than we did. Some traveled fromthe other side of the world to be there. In any case, injury would be added toour insult when both my wife and I woke with covid the day after we left thepark.


The plan was to finish up Where the Blood is Madeduring that trip, and I would not let covid stop me. My editor had already beenscheduled, as was my cover designer, etc. Not to mention that some readersexpressed dismay at the pace at which I was publishing (more on that below), soI was feeling a little pressure. And so it was that I put the final words onthe first draft on a hot day in Greybull Wyoming (Greybull — Sebastien Grey.Wow. I just know see that as I write this), while sitting in an even hottertrailer and harboring a high fever and probably delusional. I really don’tremember much about that, except thinking, “This story makes no sense. Readerswill hate it.” To my genuine surprise, book three was as highly rated andreviewed as the others. I might be on to something. Maybe?


2023 was stressful and I was not able to keep my alreadyslow publishing schedule. I had started a new job, we sold our house, I wasdiagnosed as neurodivergent, we moved into a rental for six months then boughtanother house. I also did some ghostwriting (more on that misadventure inanother post) and wrote several articles about the RV industry. Mostimportantly, my wife underwent surgery, and the recovery was tough. Not tomention we had a death in the family. You get the picture.


Now that we have gotten through the thick of those things(knock on wood) I am back at the writing. Book 4 in the Sebastien Grey seriesis first up, then I plan to work on a nonfiction book and a new fiction ideaI’ve been tinkering with (in my head — pantsing it!). Most importantly Irealize that not writing has taken a toll on my mental health. In a very shortspan of time, I’d forgotten what joy it brought me. I told myself back in 2020,“Never stop doing this. This is good. This is right.” But I did. I let thecares of the world choke the writing seed, to paraphrase the New Testament.


One of the reasons for this, and the cause of the longpublication interval (many self-published writers are pumping our books everymonth), is that I’m a victim of my own success. Getting good reviews has givenme the false idea that I should be able to sell a lot more books than I have. Imean, maybe the idea is not altogether false, but selling books is not easy. Iwas so sure that I could turn my writing into a full-time job (I’m just thatgood, right? Psh!), that I focused less on the writing and more on themarketing and ads and book signings and everything else that wasn’t gettingwords on the page. That would last for several months until it was obvious thatwriting another book would both make me happy and (hopefully) help me reach mygoal. It also takes a bit for me to get the kernel of an idea. Even though Idon’t plot my stories, I do need to picture in my mind the right opening sceneto get the book going. It has to feel right. Still, I can do much better.


As I mentioned before, 2023 broke that cadence. I was toostressed, too drained and at a weird point of trying to figure out who I am andwhere I belong in a worldly sense (having a diagnostician tell you, “congrats,you’re a level one autistic person,” after having lived more than a few decadesis a heck of a thing). But the break has taught me a lot, and, in the end,everything points me back to writing. So, thanks for being patient as I figurethat out.


I’m going to blog a lot more and try to be better at socialmedia and all that. It’s not my strong suit, which is unfortunate and hampersmy ability to meet my goals. But as far as that goes, I’m committed to worryingless about the outcome and concentrate more on output. Which is good. I can’twait to see what Sebastien, Tiffany and Hank get up to next. I bet is hassomething to do with a body in a burning car, a man who disappears into thinair, or combination. I’m still not sure. My pants haven’t told me. I do knowthat bones, blood, and Hank’s smart remarks will be in the mix. And I thinkSebastien has been getting a bit more comfortable in his own shoes. Don’t you?


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Ryburn Dobbs

A former criminal anthropologist turned author, weaves his real-world experiences into the compelling Sebastian Grey series, offering readers a captivating glimpse into the mysteries of human behavior and crime.