Writing is tough to do. I love it but its hard, especially when the cold business of publishing wears you down.
I was thrilled when I got a four book contract from my first publisher. The first one hit the independent Mystery Book Sellers top 10 list and the same organization gave my second book the designation “Killer Book”.
Then later that month I got a letter that my publisher was dropping me.
Luckily another publisher picked up my third Duffy that was in the can and ready to go.
Someone in publishing read my books and told me to write something out of my series because it was very hard to resell a series. I did just that and took a year to write a totally new book. I had friends read it and they liked it.
The publishing pro didn’t.
A year later someone else in the publishing world picked it up and I was psyched. Nine months later the person let me know they were leaving the business and they’d done nothing with the book.
I was worn out. It was hard to be enthusiastic for writing books and as much as I loved Duffy I really didn’t want to write any more. I wanted to throw my energy into magazine work where you write an article and then you get a check. No promises, no hopes and just work. Not as much fun but not as many broken hearts.
There was this problem though. A big, pain in the ass problem.
For years I’ve been letting basset rescue groups auction off a chance to put their dogs in my books. You see, basset people don’t follow Publishers Weekly, Kirkus or other top 10 lists. They like stories where hounds are respected, kidded about and get to be the heroes that they are. They are, without a doubt, the most loyal fans an author could possibly have.
Because I took a year off from Duffy (I did release a short story collection with Ginny Tata Phillips) the auction winners piled up.
That meant I had to finish the damn book. I couldn’t look auction winners in the eye and my wife and I would have to avoid waddles. Well, Sue wasn’t going to allow that. I figured I’d bang out the book and self publish it and be done with it. I had 200 pages to go.
I did it. Then I was going to self publish and Kindle it along with the new book. The problem is to self-pub right it cost about $1200 a book. Right around this time a magazine that was my steadiest form of income folded. My disposable income for self pubbing dried up.
Like I said this business wears you down. I didn’t know what to do. I half heartedly sent it to a couple of minor publishers just hoping that someone would put it out and I could save the money of doing it myself.
I called my buddy JA Konrath and asked his advice. He said to self publish–he’d even lend me the cash or he’d write a letter to the guys at Amazon that had started a new mystery line and were publishing his last Jack Daniels book , Stirred. Joe did that. I didn’t give it much hope.
A month later a guy called me from Amazon. He absolutely loves Duffy. He owns a hound. He didn’t understand why my books weren’t top sellers and he was going to do all he could to change that. That, and he wanted my other stand alone book. Contracts were on the way.
I just looked at the phone. It felt surreal. I shook a little. then a big smile came over my face.
And I thought of all of those hounds. the homeless ones at the waddles, the crazy people who do ANYTHING for them , the people who collect them like potato chips and I thought about those “pain-in-the-ass” auctions. I thought about my wife who organizes these waddle trips for us and makes sure I go. I thought about Joe and Maria Konrath who a month before called me because they wanted help getting their own rescue basset. It was the first time Joe and I connected in a long time. Then he did me a favor.
And my eyes welled.
Then I thought about the great scene that I wrote for all those hounds (and one Yorkie) who won auctions. They’re all at a luxurious dog spa at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas with Al getting pampered–which is exactly how a rescue hound should be treated.
So I’m sitting here on Thanksgiving with a two book contract with the hottest mystery publisher on the planet and I’m grateful. Wilbur my blind hound woke me up at 2:30 am to go out, Riley hasn’t stopped barking all morning and Roxie hit me in the face while I was drinking hot coffee. Like a basset owner, I barely noticed and I didn’t mind.
I smiled and realized it was time to say thanks to all the rescue hounds and the crazy people who rescue them for reviving an author’s career.
And Sue is busy making a list of basset hound events she wants to go to this year.