Adapting and Adjusting is an Author’s Life: Mine Might be Titled “Survivor”

If there was one skill set or one set of tools I would recommend every author carry in their author tool box, it is the ability to adapt and adjust.

I would go so far as to say it is the one set of tools every person needs to survive and to succeed in life. I am blessed to have acquired these abilities or skills and very thankful for them.

If there is one constant in the author world today, or in our modern world today, it is that things change and they often change fast and unexpectedly.

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As an author I’ve survived more things than I can count. I’ll attempt to list the major ones.

I’ve survived many rejection letters, and competing for a publishing contract with a major publishing house (Dorchester Publishing) during the American Title II contest. Similar to American Idol, readers voted online and each month two authors were kicked off the island. During that contest, my husband flatlined for three minutes. They were to put a stint in (a simple surgery they said) and he reacted to the dye. I nearly lost him. Three minutes is a long time to flatline. Seeing him on total life support in the operating room (the Dr took me inside without having me gown or wash my hands – the first shock of that before seeing him – and then the nurse saying ‘You can touch him if you want to’) shook my world. Split it in two.

My world split into the before, and the after. When this happened during the contest and my focus moved to sitting by his side in the hospital, instead of asking for votes, my writing world shifted. I had made it to the second round of the contest but was soon “voted off the island.” With all the other authors pushing for votes, I suspect I had very little chance of winning at that point. The before and after of my life pushed my writing career into the background. When life happens we do what we have to do.

This period of time in my life is part sharp focus and part blur. Somewhere during that time I obtained an agent who had been enthusiastically pursing several of us who were competing. Three of us signed with him.

The agent sold my book to Samhain and I survived receiving “the call” for the sale of my first book, while looking at the letter on my desk which would sever the contract with my agent. The list of reasons to split from him had grown too long to ignore. I later learned from my editor that she had never received the last chapter of the book. They bought A Desperate Journey though it was missing the last chapter. They must have liked my writing enough to take a chance on me. I’m still surprised by that. This experience made me gun shy of agents and I didn’t pitch my books to any others. It’s true that no agent is better than a bad agent. The least they can do is submit the full manuscript for you.

I then survived what I call the editor revolving door, as I was passed to five different editors at that house and the house sitting on two of my books before being orphaned at my publishing house. Being orphaned is hard because you no longer have an advocate in house and communications slow til you don’t know what is going on at your publishing house. With no agent, I also had no advocate anywhere. I was going it alone and that is no easy road.

I’ve survived firing two PR people, one after my father passed after eight months on hospice. They had done nothing to promote my new book launch. My new book came out, it was release day, and there was no promo beyond what could be done that day at the last minute after my frantic messages.  When I asked where my promo was, I was told my PR person had left the company. She’d left and no one had told me. Though the company tried to make it up to me, the lack of promo did hurt sales. I decided no PR company was better than one who didn’t do what you paid them for. Once again I was going it alone.

I survived being with five publishing houses, juggling deadlines. Not wanting to put all my eggs in one basket so as not to be orphaned with no books coming out again, I tried writing for too many houses. It was a lot to keep up with. It also meant I had many different kinds of stories out there and would not be branding with just one type of romance. I could write what I wanted, and at one house was able to sell on proposal. My publisher said she would publish anything I wrote. That was a far cry from being turned down more than once at my first house as editors revolved. I was riding the roller coaster author life up and down. I learned to adapt and adjust quickly and to write fast to meet deadlines. I often met them by missing sleep. (Not something I advise doing as it will affect your health.)  I was proud of never missing a deadline, a carry over from working at the Collierville Herald newspaper.

Of those five presses, three are no longer in business and one discontinued the line I was writing in. In some cases I was never paid my royalties. I never received my advance from the first house. Though the royalties covered that advance, so it’s not like they robbed me, the advance would have helped.

I’ve survived internet trolls and bad reviews, slings and arrows, things people fling at you when they want to pull you down. I refuse to be pulled down and focus on staying up and staying positive.

Through it all, I survive. Beyond that I am determined to thrive. To succeed. To do what I love and to share my stories with the world. I write because I love to write and I love stories. I protect my writing with a ferocity few realize and which has even surprised my husband at times.

Recent news reminded me it was time to adapt and adjust again. And that is exactly how I see it. Kindle Worlds is closing. We just got the word this week and my email came while I was in the hospital with pancreatitis. Boy, talk about timing. I had three more books scheduled to come out in two different Kindle Worlds. This affects my writing and publishing schedule for 2018. It affects my today and my tomorrow. The next book was to be out in June. I’m now readjusting my planner and turning to work on a different story.

This is what authors must do if we are not only to survive, but to thrive. Not just on a financial level but on an emotional level as well, for our happiness as writers.

Happiness is important and life is short.

Minutes matter.

How much time do you spend on the negative curve that has just been thrown your way?

Change can propel you to better things or it can bog you down. Don’t let it. Adapt and adjust as quickly as you can. The past is the past and needs to remain there. You are in charge of your tomorrows. Make them good ones.

Today I am working on book three which will be in this box set, tying my first two westerns together. Tying them together and wrapping up the past into the future where good things can and will happen. Desperate, Dangerous and Deadly: A Western Collection containing A Desperate Journey, Dangerous Ties, and Deadly Adversaries. Look for it soon.

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Belo Dia Publishing

Perhaps you have noted it’s been a while since I posted to this blog. To say I have been busy would be an understatement. 2015 saw me with five publishers and multiple deadlines to meet. Much has changed since then. I am now a hybrid author with my own small boutique press and I am still with two other publishers.

The name of my new press is Belo Dia Publishing. Belo Dia is Beautiful Day in Portuguese. Debra Logo cmyk

If you hang out with me long enough eventually you will hear me say this, “Every day we are alive is a beautiful day.” This belief permeates every cell of my being.

At Belo Dia, we aim to publish books which uplift and celebrate each beautiful day we are here on this earth together. Currently we are publishing romance and poetry.

I love the new logo. It expresses everything I wanted in a logo. The sun rising up above the green hills, rising out of the pages of the books we publish, with the solid core of the publishing house beneath.

The first part of 2016 I spent re-publishing all the back list books I had reversion of rights for. They are out now in both print and in ebook with new covers. Moving on to publish new works, I have two new works out and am working on a third. One goal I have for 2016 is to publish my back list books in audio, an option I did not have before when they were with other publishers. The future is bright here at Belo Dia where every day is a beautiful day.

On Drive, Writing and Achieving Goals

I have drive. When it come to my books, my writing career, I have drive.

My husband calls it tunnel vision and perhaps it could be called that too, because when I am that focused on the goal, it is an extreme focus which fades things in the periphery of my vision. But whatever one chooses to call it,  it have it and when I am that focused I will not be redirected elsewhere, by anyone, even in the most extreme circumstances. I call it drive.

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I have drive. This has allowed me to achieve what I have achieved in my writing career so far to this date. No matter what has happened to me and to my books I keep pushing forward. Set backs happen. I have to get up, dust myself off and start again. I have to adapt and adjust. This is not to say I have not had those nights when it seemed impossible to get up and do it again and to start over. This is not to say I have not had nights when I cried bitter tears of frustration and sadness and loss and felt like giving up. I have had such dark nights and gotten through them, sometimes alone, sometimes with the help of a friend. But I have gotten through them. I get up, dust myself off and I begin again. Because I have drive.

When students who are serious about their writing ask me what it takes to get published (usually they mean with a publisher not self publishing which nearly anyone can do these days if they apply themselves) I tell them the things they must know to get published and I teach them the skills and pass along the information they will need to achieve that. But that drive, that is the one thing I cannot give them or teach them. Drive comes from within. I can motivate. I can ask them how bad do they want it. I can ask them any number of questions which will motivate them, but it still has to come from within. They need that inner fire. That drive.

Drive accepts no excuses. It does not care what is going in in your life. It does not care if you are tired. It does not care about anything other than achieving that goal. Drive is unstoppable, unrelenting, ruthless. If you have ever once tasted drive within yourself you will know this will be true. You will understand what I am speaking of.

I have drive. Sometimes this means I drive myself too hard, too fast and for too long. I am often too hard on myself. Often this means I will crash and crash hard. Just last night I had such a crash. I had been driving myself too hard, living on fours hours of sleep, pushing hard to get books out with rights reversions back from three publishers and many books to get out under my new publishing company/private label and an all day book event yesterday where I needed to have books ready to sign. I had been pushing myself hard for about a month, and pushing the month before, not as hard but pushing. So when I came home from the book event last night I crashed and crashed hard. I slept for twelve hours straight. Then I got up and four hours later napped for an hour. I had reached a point of exhaustion and my body said, enough.

This is what drive can do. So when you have it to the degree that I have, it is important to learn to manage it, to control it. To find some sort of balance between allowing that drive to fill you to the point where you push on through to your goals and between reigning it in so you can rest and recharge and be ready to push on through the next day. Often when I have a set back in my writing career, after the dark night of drying those tears, I get back up with a fierce sort of drive which pushes me hard. It is my way of fighting back against the twists of fate the publishing life throws at me. It is that fierce determination which doesn’t listen. It is the dark side of drive or tunnel vision because it does not listen.

What follows a crash and burn with me is a quiet, a silence. A time of evaluation. Of assessment and of looking all around and listening. The drive is sated then, quiet. Not gone, just quiet and still enough that it waits until I need it again.

Drive is something that allows us to achieve our goals and sometimes achieve things we had never dreamed of. I believe it is a necessary part of achieving a successful writing career and of achieving any sort of dream. I am thankful to have it and would not want to be any other way than I am. Writing is not a hobby for me. Never has been and never will be. I have the drive which will take me there. The part I must learn is to balance that drive and to live a more healthy lifestyle. That is the challenge that I see. Typing these words my next thought is, challenge, now you have set the challenge. And this… this is the beginning of setting any sort of goal for which you will need drive.

Oh yes. I have this drive. It just needs some direction, a goal to point it to.

I have drive.