Monday, May 18, 2009

Give Those Gold Stars

What I'm reading: Invisible Prey, by John Sandford; Sudden Death, by Allison Brennan

Change can be good. Change can be scary. Sometimes you have choices. Sometimes the choices are made for you. Sometimes you feel like you're poised at the top of a cliff.

Almost a year ago, I opted to quit my day job and focus more on writing. I had two book contracts, an agent shopping a manuscript, and another one almost finished. I requested the rights back to one of my books—one that I thought might stand a better chance at a mass market release rather than being hidden in a relatively obscure digital marketplace, when its competition was the print market. I'd saved enough from my day job to finance a writing career for about three years, I figured.

Well, Murphy's Law, Fate, Karma … you know what they say about the best laid plans.

Keep Reading...

I'd just taken a flying leap off the edge of the cliff when the economy tanked. Hubby's job was being phased out. My manuscript hadn't sold. I made another difficult decision and parted company with my agent.

I now have to decide what to do with the unsold manuscript as well as another spin-off that hasn't been out in the world, and the book to which I now hold the rights. I wrote that one almost five years ago, and the technology was already out of date by the time it was published. Plus, I've started a new book, and have been struggling with deciding if I want to make it another romance, or if it should be a straight mystery.

Added to that, getting the house ready to sell has the stress level hitting the stratosphere. Writing has always been a firm foothold in maintaining my sanity, but having to deal with meeting the realtor's "suggestions" for taking a house with an accumulation of 22 years of "stuff" into a clean, spacious, dwelling that will entice buyers has been a full-time proposition, meaning there's an additional buildup of stress. And with little or no time to focus on writing, there's no release valve.

The doubts rise, and I wonder if I was crazy thinking I could write; if I have the energy to search for another agent; if my publisher will accept the sequel to When Danger Calls; if my writing savings will have to be diverted for food and housing expenses. Or if I'm going over the waterfall.

And then something as simple as an automatically generated email gives me the little ego-stroke that reminds me that no matter what, I'm a writer, and setbacks or not, I'm going to write.

When I began writing, as some of you may know, I wrote fan fiction based on the Highlander television series. I had fun and learned a lot about the craft. I wrote half a dozen stories, and they're still floating around cyberspace. I haven't tried to nuke them; they serve as reminders that I've made considerable progress. Well, a couple of days ago, I got email notifications from a major fan fiction site that someone had added me to his or her (gotta love those genderless screen names) favorite author list and marked two of my stories as favorites as well. You know how you felt when your teacher put a big gold star on your paper? This was the same feeling.
It's not like making one of the best seller lists. Or being nominated for a Rita, or finaling in one of the contests I'd entered. Or even getting a glowing review. But it says someone enjoyed my stories, and took the time to say something about it.

And that's the secret. Taking that little bit of time.

Last week, we got takeout from a new restaurant. It was part of a chain, so there was no reason to expect any problems; the menus are standard, and they should have had an established training system for their help. Yet when we got the meal home, we found that one of the salads was missing a vital ingredient—the lettuce. And the chips were salted to the point that they were almost inedible (if you wiped them off before eating each one, they were tolerable). I found the company website and emailed them about our experience. The were prompt to apologize and invited us back for another try. We took them up on it, and had an acceptable meal. I might have simply regarded this as appropriate customer service and let it drop, but now I think I'll follow up with a thank you and let them know they're doing better.

How about you? As prices go up on just about everything, as jobs disappear, as the future becomes uncertain, it's important to remember the little things that can brighten someone's day. How many times have you enjoyed a book, or a meal, or the way someone treated you in a shop and followed up with a 'thank you?' Do it. You'll be bringing some light into someone's day. It costs you nothing but a few moments of your time.

Tomorrow, my guest is author June Shaw. Although she writes humorous mysteries, she's tackling a more serious subject. But then, doesn't humor have roots in the darker side?


Kathye Quick said...

Hi Terry-

I was feeling quite down today and then I read your blog. I decided that maybe I should look around and say thank you to someone today and maybe get them out of the funk that I feel.

Thanks for reminding me that the world doesn't always revolve around me.

Hope you get a 6-figure book deal soon. And whi;e you're there - see if there is an extra for me!!

Terry Odell said...

Kathye, I'm glad I made a difference, however slight. And may we both get those great book deals!

Dara Edmondson said...

I'm a big advocate of the simple art of thank you. I have a relative who is a constant complainer, yet when things go well, she never bothers to say so.
I look at the economic changes as a bump in the road we'll get past. Good luck with all the changes in your life. It's tougher when they all come at once.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Dara
Nothing like having one's mettle tested.