Mike Dennis played music professionally for thirty years. “I was a piano player, also venturing off into electronic keyboards from time to time.” It was a career that took him all over the U.S. and “unusual foreign countries,” playing rock & roll, rhythm & blues and country music. He played just about every venue imaginable, large and small. It was a career that finally brought him to his “beloved Key West,” where he retired from the industry in 2003.
Would that be good training for an author? “Thirty years of writing would be more like it,” he admits. “But playing music is what I did, so that’s what I had to work with.”
Around the late 80s, while living and playing in New Orleans, his interest in writing began almost by accident. A writer friend liked the account he wrote of an overseas trip he took, and thought that maybe he could make a go of making up and writing down stories professionally. “Of course, I disagreed,” he remembers, “claiming fiction was for ‘real’ writers.” But she kept at him. So he started. “On and off for the next twenty years.” Along the way, he had finished several novels and a few dozen short stories. Not to mention “hundreds (or was it thousands?) of rejection slips.”
In 2006 he had moved to Las Vegas to play poker professionally. Then in 2009, someone offered to publish one of his novels. He took it. “I quit poker to develop an Internet presence and a promotional mechanism, as well as to write more books.”
Mike is now back home in Key West, where he lives with his wife Yleana, who he “married one warm December night in 2012 on the rooftop of an apartment building in Havana, Cuba.”
Mike turned to self-publishing after that first traditionally-published novel. “I’ve since published five more novels, two novelettes, a short story collection, and numerous individual short stories.” This includes the Key West Nocturnes Series, “a group of dark, gritty novels designed to lift the lid off Key West and reveal it as a true noir city,” and the Jack Barnett/Las Vegas Series of two novelettes and a novel about a “reluctant ex-private investigator now trying to live a low-profile life in Las Vegas.”
But why, if he already had a foot in the door of the traditional publishing world, did he decide to go indie? “I turned to self-publishing after reading the astonishing accounts of people like Amanda Hocking and Joe Konrath, who almost by themselves turned the publishing world on its ear.”
Risky? Maybe you missed the bits about “Las Vegas” and “Poker” a few paragraphs up above. Not that self-publishing’s really all that much of a gamble, but as far as bets are concerned, this looks like it’s turned out to be a really smart one.
Article by Eldon Sarte