The offer of help is critical, but often timing is the deal-maker--with support, encouragement, and simple love arriving just in the nick of time. I know this all too well. My latest book, "Dawn's Early Light," and perhaps my writing career, are examples of what can happen when helping hands reach out in the needed hours.
The number one question asked since the release of "Dawn's Early Light" surrounds the cover. It's obvious that this volume is singularly different in appearance from the first two, and for good reason--I have a new publisher on book three--me. And why? Well, the why isn't nearly as important as the how. . . As in, "How did this volume come to be at all?"
When sales of book two, "Twilight's Last Gleaming" slipped below the number anticipated, my publisher pulled out, and I was left with a homeless third manuscript I had invested over a year writing. I believed the story was important, and I was in love with the characters, but with publisher one owning books one and two, no one would invest in book three. My series would never be completed. The story would never be finished.
The dark, confidence-reducing thoughts began. "Maybe the storyline isn't that great. . . maybe my writing isn't that interesting. . . maybe I don't have what it takes. . ." I suppose most of us have had these thoughts on some occasion--about our careers, our parenting, our talents. . . The Adversary's most prized tool--"The Wedge of Discouragement," was being put to good use during that time. It will sound silly, perhaps, to care so much for an intangible thing like a story, but receiving that email on October 3, 2008 felt like a death of sorts--of my series, of these characters I loved so dearly, and of my career.
Fortunately for me, hands were at that ready to pull me out of my downward spiral. The first set of hands was my husband, Tom's, whose first desire always is to eradicate the source of my pain. If there were dragons, he'd be my dragon-slayer, so in spirit he began pummeling away at my invisible demons, while cheering loudly and holding on tightly.
Ironically, word had arrived the previous day from a group of readers that they had nominated "Twilight's Last Gleaming" for a 2008 Whitney Award. I had no delusions of winning, but the simple idea that someone felt my work was worth nominating thrilled me. Still, the series had been cancelled, and I was confused about how to put all these events into context. I felt like a literary Hester Prynne, bearing the stain of a scarlet "R" for "rejected" emblazoned across my chest, and stamped across the body of my work. I needed professional assurance and validation, and where did I turn? To the talented woman who had edited all my books. There wasn't anything in particular that she could do, but her verbal hand-holding and back-pats helped me regain a healthy perspective about the fickle nature of publishing, and I dug back in to investigate the possibility of self-publishing.
A few months later I travelled to Utah for the LDStorymakers' annual convention. Being surrounded by successful, award-winning authors whose books adorned LDS book catalogs, and filled store shelves, intimidated me. My "R" seemed to glow ever brighter and I again wondered whether I should throw in the professional towel. These were my thoughts as I was setting up my book display, and a sweet woman walked over to me. She introduced herself and I recognized her name instantly. She's a successful, fan-favorite author whose multiple-genre-d career is highly renowned. She asked me who I was, and as I snapped my hanging mouth closed, I introduced myself quietly, certain my name would be unfamiliar to her. Instead of brushing me off, she offered profuse kindness and had lovely things to say about my work. Unbelievable! That simple act of generosity pulled me out of the basement, steeling my commitment to publish volume three. It was just an ordinary moment of human kindness to this generous mentor, but to me it was pivotal--a positive spark bright enough to clear away the discouragement. It made all the difference.
"Dawn's Early Light" debuted just a week ago to lovely reviews--a delight considering that it nearly didn't get published at all. I don't yet know how well it's being received by readers. It could fail, but at least I finished it. Yeah, because of a few helping hands that reached out at in needed hours, I managed to get it out there.
If I'm ever accused of being anything, I hope it will be of being really kind, too gushy, too gentle. But is that even possible? I doubt it, but it's surely worth the risk.