Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer


Steven Shwartz.
It started in grade school.  Obsessed with science-fiction, I scribbled short stories of astounding stupidity.  In high school I wrote for the literary magazine.  Later on I did one-act plays with my pal Kevin.  Other efforts included poetry and book and film reviews for suburban newspaper chains.  In college Kevin and I commandeered the school newspaper and wrote scatological poems and essays on Henry Miller and Jean Genet.  This led to our expulsion.  During this time and for decades afterwards I wanted to do something more substantial but life always seemed to get in the way.  It wasn’t until I was living in Arizona that the proper jolt was delivered.  This boost came from my newly found friend Barry Graham.  The noted Scottish author and Zen monk found my attempt at porn parody, “Sin-ema” to be in need of publication.  At his urging we formatted it and put it out.  Not wanting to be tainted by what I considered nonsense, I used a pen name, Steve Shadow.  I am now stuck with this name.
By the time this attempt at filthy teen-age humor came out I was in my 70’s.  Perhaps in a frenzy to do what I had not done when I was younger, I set out and wrote 8 more books in 3 years.  Lacking computer skills and any commercial sense, I had to rely on others for cover art and formatting.  Also being a stubborn fool, I only have one friend as a reader and grammar guru.  Scott McDonald, author of “Crossing the Blood Line” and a fine artist has proven a true friend.  For my last book he acted as both formatter and cover artist.  Prior to his involvement I was lucky enough to have the noted French graphic artist Vince Larue, do my covers.
Not wanting to wait for an agent or a book deal or to endure the endless rounds of uncertainty of traditional publishing, I followed the advice of Barry Graham and self-published.  This brings total control and almost instant gratification.  It also brings the burden of being ones own editor and a total lack of any promotion.  But those of you who write know all too well that it is an addiction without any cure.  While I do have a small local following I find that getting beyond this small group of readers is difficult.
I have received advice in terms of branding, etc.  As someone who writes for my own pleasure, I am glad not to be bound to any one genre.  This probably spells commercial failure but I am bound only by my imagination and ideas.  Thus I have some crime, some comedy, two short story collections, a western and a lot of unclassifiable scribbles.
These past three years have been an adventure and an object lesson in perseverance. It is never too late to begin a new adventure and to realize ones dreams.  I have drawn hugely from my own life.  I was lucky enough to have been born and raised in Chicago.  During my time there I was involved in everything from the political elite to the mafia sub-culture to show business to rock and roll.  This rich stew of life experience has provided me with endless material.  I write what comes to me and hopefully provide something for every taste.  I only wish I could do what Tony Black does but I am stuck with me.  Check out my titles on Amazon and maybe you will find something that resonates.  I am also in the new graphic collection called “southwest noir”.
I would also like to say that while writing is a lonely occupation when one does come in contact with other writers the kinship is palpable.  Writers, and especially crime writers, have proven to be the most generous, likable and fun loving bunch.  Even I, a loner by nature, have found nothing but fine and supportive people amongst the many writers I have met.

:: Steve Shadow is the pen name of Steven Schwartz.  He resides in Arizona where he pounds away at his old terminal.  You can reach him for questions, complaints, etc at and follow him at