It’s been quiet here for the last year, and I felt an explanation was warranted.
Two little words that delight and torment me on a regular basis. What if a teen demon summoned a human who didn’t know she was a witch to enact revenge on a cheating boyfriend? What if a fallen angel hid his efforts as a guardian angel from hell while trying to get the Big Guy to notice and offer him a relocation package? What if my day job pager goes off so often because it’s lonely? What if questions have fueled dozens of plot ripples sometimes so big they forced major revisions.
A little more than a year ago, I what if’d my life and found it in need of revision. Here’s how it came about….
My last major post saw me on a book research trip in Savannah, Georgia. I’d gotten a recent raise to support the trip. I had two novels out on requested review for major publishers. Life was looking up. I probably even said so out loud. If you’re a fervent reader, you know what happens when a character tempts worse – PLOT: One Damned Thing After Another.
That’s what happened to me. Two authors who’d I’d had the pleasure of learning from passed away. My beloved dream car died on the research trip. Bad choices, both mine and others’, resulted in a brand new car that ate up the raise with interest. Okay, I’m used to rolling with the punches, so I just kept slogging forward. After all, if you strive long enough it has to get better, right?
A major science fiction author ended up at a tiny convention near me. I went hoping to ask a few questions that I hadn’t managed to ask at Dragon*Con the month before. What I got was several generous hours worth of education and truth be told, internal panic. He kindly gave me a look at the reality about publisher/writer finances. There I sat, barely able to squeeze together enough money to buy a book off his table as thanks for all he’d taught me, facing the possibility that either of those two submitted books could get a contract. That should be good, but it donned on me that my lifestyle was about to ruin my dreams of writing professionally, all because I couldn’t afford to do my part as the author. PANIC – the quiet internal kind.
A friend of mine had been pushing some money book for the previous year, but I wanted a novel for a little escape from my troubles, not some non-fiction lecture. Of course, someone broke into my new car. They took my laptop, voice writing rig, and my kindle. They also taught me that I didn’t understand insurance, because none of it was covered. If I didn’t want to punch the thief on pure principle, I’d have hugged them. Thank God, I had nothing to read at work except The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Once started, I couldn’t put it down. Ramsey took rather obscene pleasure in explaining to me exactly how stupid I was when it came to money. For all my vaunted common sense, I had none when it came to dollars or cents.
I was already in the process of buying a house, so I honored that contract, but otherwise I started employing Ramsey’s simple techniques – with a vengeance. The What If and revision in my financial life quickly spilled over into other areas. I picked up several side jobs, working all three available shifts as much as I could manage – burning the candle with a flamethrower. Between the deaths of two of my heroes and the increased activity, I revised my exercise and eating habits. In between all the shifts, I squeezed in all the writing and editing I could, appreciating that time more than I had in some time. I increased my non-fiction reading to what it’d been years ago when I was a sponge for any crumb of superfluous minutia I could gobble.
Ramsey recommended another book, Start by Jon Acuff. Once more I stared myself straight in the reflection and recognized a flaw in my habits. Many of you are aware I’ve completed sixteen novels. I can only hope none of you ever get a look at the first few, but the others ranged from amateur crap to the stuff sitting on publishers’ desks. Some of it was pretty good, especially after I finally got my head around GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction by Debra Dixon. Yet it just sat on my shelf instead of out in the world in your hands. Acuff forced me to re-evaluate the excuses I used to avoid the risk that I’d put something out into the world. His book forced me to accept I was afraid to face not the private rejection letters of a publisher, but the jeering hatred of readers angry that my work failed to meet expectations.
I’ve written, edited and worked three or more jobs for the last year. I’ve worked out. I’ve eaten better. I’ve lost weight and faced some of my fears. I’m still working my way through debt and improving my health – not mention still in boxes after a year in the new house. I’ve come far enough to drop the side jobs and focus on putting out my first self-published novels – fear be damned.
Life’s not perfect, but as usual the revisions are making all the difference. There’s still a lot to do, plenty of revisions left to make. I’m not just involved in a living anthology anymore, I’m living a life in revision for my benefit and for my readers.
What If? Changes are coming. Get ready for some noise.