We continue to consider failure through the wise, honest words of science fiction author Lyda Morehouse (and a few from Milton).
In the Koran, Iblis (Satan) feels Allah tricked him (long story, but he’s super mad about Allah’s newest creation, human beings, and when Allah presented this new muddy clump of animated clay, Satan refused to bow before it, because, he felt, that God was the only one worthy of his devotion. Satan thought that the point of this exercise to check the loyalty of the angels. He thought himself pretty smug for having passed. So, no surprise he feels very PWN’d when Allah says he will be cast out of Paradise for his transgression,) so Satan/Iblis says:
“Because You have sent me astray, surely I will sit in wait against them (human beings) on Your Straight Path. Then I will come to them from before them and behind them, from their right and from their left…”
Traditional New York publishers aren’t the Great Satan, but I have spent many days counting the ways in which I feel they share similar characteristics.
There are a lot of reasons to be bitter about the state of publishing. My personal story of heartache has a lot in common with Iblis’s, at least in my own mind. I actually got into Paradise, which is to say that a prominent publishing house picked up my first novel. That book came out to a moderate amount of fanfare. From there on out, I tried to be a perfect angel. I never missed a deadline. When my editor called and said, “So, this Twilight book is hot. You think you could do something similar?” I happily said yes, even though maybe a tiny part of my soul died a little. I never fought editorial changes to my book. NEVER. “It’s their book,” I told myself. “They paid for it.”
And then I was cast out.
I spent a lot of time brooding about this since. Was it just my time and was this the excuse they were looking for? I know that can happen because I narrowly avoided being “quietly shown the door” earlier because I met and bonded with my previous editor. My science fiction numbers hadn’t been what the publisher was hoping for, but we chatted at a convention and he, bless his soul, decided he’d tell me what his bosses had in store for me and helped me switch from science fiction to romance. So, I’d gotten some awesome breaks in the past.
Truthfully, I got fourteen published books out of my run; I was probably simply due for a fall.
But you would not believe the amount of time I have spent turning over details and events around that final moment. Who’s fault was it? Was it fair? Who could I blame? Should I have fought over creative differences earlier? Would that have helped my books be better, and thus improve my numbers? Or, was it a mistake to fight? Should I have continued to capitulate in hopes that things would get better and so that would have yet another book to write under contract?
Any one of those could have been my great failure. But, believe it or not, none of that really matters.
The mistake I’ve made is allowing myself to become bitter. The single most destructive force in my career has been me: my willingness to bow my head and quit.
I always believed that I could never not write, and that’s been true. I’ve been writing ever since my publishing career crumbled beneath my feet, but I gave up striving for publication. There are so many new avenues for writers these days and instead of exploring self or small press publishing, I have stared at the doors of heaven and shaken my fists.
This is a mistake—it’s a failure of resilience, a loss of hope that I’m finally beginning to recover from. I’ve been trying my hand at new ways of writing: a comic book script, collaboration, self-publishing, etc.
And I’m here to tell you that writing can still make me happy. It’s still the greatest job on earth. Ultimately, I have found an answer to the question another writer once posed:
“To be or not to be, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or by opposing, end them?”
It is better to oppose them.
It is better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.
Lyda Morehouse writes about that gets other people in trouble: religion and science. Her first novel Archangel Protocol won the Shamus Award for best paperback novel featuring a private detective. A subsequent novel, Apocalypse Array, also came in second for the prodigious Philip K. Dick award. This, however, did not insulate her from failure and so she revived her career as paranormal romance writer Tate Hallaway, author of the Garnet Lacey series and the YA series, Vampire Prince of St. Paul. She is now attempting to rise from the ashes again. Wish her luck and follow her progress at: www.lydamorehouse.com or on twitter @tatehallaway or via the various places she blogs, including www.tatehallway.blogspot.com