My Biggest Failure: Letting the B-st-rds Get Me Down

We continue to consider failure through the wise, honest words of science fiction author Lyda Morehouse (and a few from Milton).

Lyda MorehouseIn 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.

So.

Many.

Days.

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.”

Except once.

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

10 thoughts on “My Biggest Failure: Letting the B-st-rds Get Me Down

  1. I love how the “mistake” has boiled down to “…a failure of resilience, a loss of hope…”. In other words, with grit, tenacity and optimism, the writer keeps writing. And so always wins.

  2. Bitterness, defensive posture, anger- all amount to spiritual suicide, the slow intravenous drip kind. Just look at Iblis now.
    Don’t let it get you. It’s not “the publishers,” it’s failure to remain in love with life. Glad you are making your way back.

    • Yes, you’re very right. What’s funny is that I usually have a lot of joie d’vivre. But in this one area–because it felt so unfair–I very much allowed myself to wallow. Wallowing just makes you muddy, it turns out. So, yeah, I’m glad I’m turning around too.

  3. Hmmm. I am coming to self-publishing (soon) from the point of view that the traditional publishers are Satan – capricious, overbearing, and stingy – and that I would rather be on the winning team, not on Satan’s.

    The traditional publishers take the work they cannot produce themselves – the writing – and claim it.

    I like it better for the writer to have the control. I don’t mind having to learn how to exercise that control. Writers such as yourself have a lot more angst in their lives – for a smaller share of the rewards – than I can live with. I did query with the first novel – back in the dark ages – and I remember the waiting, the disappointment at the form rejections (that novel was NOT ready, but may do nicely when I have time), the agonizing over simultaneous submissions, the complete inability to write while everything was up in the air.

    This is nicer: I will publish when it’s ready, when I am satisfied, with my own judgment (and that of beta readers and some other professionals) that the product is as good as it can be. I will have the final say for cover and description and formatting.

    And I may sink like a stone – but no angst: I know what the marketplace is like, and I have chosen to take it on.

    I am so sorry they were unfair to you after all those novels. I hope you will be much happier on the side of the angels. Very best of luck for your new and improved career.

    • Thanks. You may be absolutely right about the current state of publishing. Without a doubt a whole article could be written about the advantages and disadvantages of big, traditional publishers versus smaller press/self-publishing options. To be fair, when I came of age in publishing, the big folks were the only real game in town–self-publishing was still very much vanity presses only. My first book was published in 2001 and at that time, believe it or not, they didn’t even THINK to buy e-book rights because e-readers weren’t a Thing yet (though they would be in a matter of years). Publishing has changed tremendously in the last fifteen years. Which is part of why I feel like *such* a failure. If I had been more open to the new way of doing things, I might have better landed on my feet, you know? I’m still struggling with letting go of the old ways, as it were. Goodness knows I have “trunk novels” (those ones you finished and stuffed in the sock drawer because, as you say, they made the rounds and got only rejects), that I could self-publish today. So, yes, hyperbole aside, no matter who’s “sin” it is, what is needed is forward momentum… which is a probably true at any stage of writing, I think.

      • Okay, number 1: STOP feeling like a failure.

        You’re actually quite a success story: only the 1% get through the filter and get published by a big publisher – and you got all those novels published, and I for one am VERY impressed.

        Lots and lots of midlisters are complaining now about the very thing you are complaining: dropped by their publishers of yore. I think it’s just the times. They need to buy the big sellers to support their business model, and are not supporting the midlist as they might have in the past.

        So many traditionally-published authors, dropped or not, are saying, “Thanks for the memories,” and moving themselves, their backlist (if possible), and their new novels over to the SP side, taking advantage of their own blogs and sites to communicate with their readers (a bit belatedly, because they don’t necessarily have those sites running already, and may find it a bit hard to find those of their readers who used to buy their books from bookstores).

        It is not too late. You are already a writer, and a ‘published author.’

        But do remember all those negative feelings – as you replace them, over time, with the good ones from having more control.

        If you can write, new readers will like your books. And, obviously, you can write.

  4. From where I sit you’re in a good position. Unlike unknown writers trying to jump-start an indy career with no name recognition, you’ve got a track record. And fans!

    This may be coals to Newcastle, but if you need a pep-talk or just to read someone else slicing, dicing and serving up trad-pub with a fine garnish of Gagh, I’d recommend Kristin Katherine Rusch:

    http://kriswrites.com/business-rusch-publishing-articles/#sthash.mf6sILSI.dpbs

    All the best~

  5. These types of battles are always about our inner selves. What part of your inner self does the evil publishing industry represent? What is your addiction to being their perfect little angel? If you stop, where do those feelings go?

    There is more than one way to know your inner demons. Sometimes they take form outside of us, to show us, to illustrate. Life is the greatest author. We throw knives at our oppressors but they are in the final analysis, only ourselves.

    Embrace your bitterness and call it home like a friend. You will find relief in your shadow, I dare say.

    If not there’s alway hiking!!! and beer!!!

    • Hiking, beer, and embracing bitterness. I’m totally down with that!

      But I also wanted to say that I think that you’ve hit the point of my essay. What I failed the most was me. I got/get lots of encouragement, but it was/is still hard to push past all the ‘me,’ if you will, that gets in the way.

      Still working on it.🙂

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