I think every writer has at least one moment like this. After seven contracted works and three in various stages of submission in the last nine months, it’s easy to run out of steam, and I hit a major wall at the end of October, thanks in no small part to some unanticipated events.
I’d planned to end the month on a relatively sedate note, scale back my work and take an honest-to-God week off, unwind, and just enjoy not having to be in four places at once before the madness of NaNoWriMo AND the “Timeless Desire” blog tour kicked off. So, on October 26th, I decided taking a little time off wasn’t a bad idea. Besides, the next day was my four-year wedding anniversary.
And that was the day my puppy, Thor, got sick.
At the same time, my wife injured her knee. A sick dog plus an injured wife plus a frazzled writer equals ain’t nothin’ gettin’ done. So, at a quarter after four, when we should have been sitting down to an anniversary dinner, we were at the vet’s office, trying to get Thor better. We got through our anniversary, but it wasn’t what I’d hoped the day would be.
Two days later, I had to bow out of a scheduled author release chat at Noble Romance’s Yahoo group, because Thor’s condition had visibly declined. He became sluggish and lethargic, and we rushed him to the emergency pet hospital near our house, to no avail.
He died in my arms as I was carrying him into the hospital.
Rationally, I know at six months old, the little guy just didn’t have much of a chance. This was particularly traumatic because I’ve seen pets die before. Older pets who’d enjoyed a good life and had lots of years behind them. But you never expect to lose a pet so young (Except for fish, which are kind of borderline pets if you ask me anyway. Animate wall decorations is more like it.) and I took it very hard.
A week later, we got the urn back. A tiny cedar box with a brass padlock and key, swathed in sheer green material and containing a poem and a packet of rosemary. I still haven’t had the heart to open the bag and read the poem. They also included a memorial wall hanging in forest green. The left side has a cut-out shaped like a bone and “The Rainbow Bridge” written on the inside. There are three circles on the right: The top one remains empty until I can find the perfect picture to grace it. The middle bears a pawprint. And the bottom, a lock of Thor’s hair.
The urn has now taken up residence to the right of my monitor on my desk. The wall hanging is above my monitor, where I can see it easily.
I mourned a lot between the time he died and a few days after we got the urn back. I tried to get back in the saddle several times and write the venom and pain out of my system, but all my attempts felt flat and lifeless. It was like I knew the words and how to put them together, but they just wouldn’t come properly. I even took a stab at working on Angel of Death, but I wasn’t in love with what I wrote; a rarity for me, especially where my angels are concerned. The best I could come up with was a half-baked, pseudo-philosophical rant about why death is necessary, and even that wasn’t up to my usual standards.
It took me a seeming eternity to get myself together. But, as often happens on the heels of a tragedy, good news seemed to rain from the sky.
First, I got the cover for my forthcoming release, “Dancing On Flames,” available November 29th from Noble Romance Publishing. I love this cover, because it really conveys the tension of the story. Chalk it up to another wonderful offering from Fiona Jayde, Noble’s staff cover artist. Then I got an email from D.L. King, telling me that she was going to recommend an erotic short story about a succubus I submitted months ago and had all but forgotten about, “The Chapel,” to Cleis Press for a forthcoming anthology. They could still turn it down, but I’ve passed the first hurdle.
In the meantime, I’ve gotten a lot of comments and support from my readers, fans, and friends. It’s been a trying and very dark time, but everything’s turning around. And with so many great people around me, I’m finally getting that spark of creative genius, madness, call it what you will, back.
Needless to say, NaNoWriMo is a fading dream for this year. But I sat down and tallied up all my fiction writing for the year to date: two hundred thirteen thousand words of new material, all of it published or in submission. If you factor in the various blogs I’ve written and the promotional this, that, and the other I’ve done since February, the actual count hovers closer to three hundred fifty thousand words.
Not a bad year by anyone’s yardstick. And dammit, it’s something to be proud of. So I’m going to be. Rather than focusing on my failures and losses, I’m looking forward to what I’m bringing next year. With so many of my peers and fans backing me, how can I fail?
It’s time to grab a spork, put on the chef’s hat, and bring it. 2011 has been a banner year, for all its hardships and difficulties. 2012 will be better.
Because I’m a manuscript mage, a romance rockstar, and that’s just the way it is.
I have willed it so.
Before I go, I wanted to leave you with an excerpt from my forthcoming release, “Dancing On Flames.” This is an unedited excerpt, so there may be (substantial) editing changes from the final version. I hope y’all enjoy it!
Until next time,
In the aftermath of a raid on a band of child slavers, Russell and Ion of the Chosen of Fenrir find themselves baring their hearts and souls—and their bodies—to one another. In doing so, they violate one of their Clan’s most sacred laws: Look not to your own kind for love.
Now, one will lay his life on the line on the Path of the Flame Dance, where the Mother Earth will judge whether the love they have is worthy—or a betrayal of their own blood. The other must watch as his lover walks the fire, or perishes in the attempt. Stand or fall, the two warriors will never be the same. . . .
The silver wolf stole a glance at its larger, black cohort.
What do you think, Ion?
The black wolf gave a low growl and shook its flanks. Its posture and bearing spoke of barely-restrained fury, even as its blue eyes glinted with an intelligence far beyond that which might be observed in its smaller brethren.
Slaver scum, came the ominous mental retort. Looks like our information was right.
When do you want to attack?
The black wolf swiveled its muzzle up to study the high-riding moon. After a long moment, he thought, No time like the present, Russell. You up for this?
Russell chuffed, a sound that would have terrified any of the men below. It was the canid equivalent of a mirthless laugh. Give me a moment, and then we can go.
He looked down at the camp and focused all his will on a plea to the Mighty Mother. Bring forth your breath, Mother, that it may shroud our attack. In his mind, he began a low chant which quickly built in power and volume. Below, a thin streamer of mist crept into the camp. In moments more followed, until a billowing cloud of fog enveloped the tiny enclave. The merrymaking in the camp cut off, to be replaced by cries of consternation and alarm at the unnaturally fast-moving fog.
Russell looked at Ion. Will that cover our entry adequately?
Ion snorted. Well done, Brings-The-Sign. Let’s make an end of these fools.
The silver wolf winked. I thought you’d never ask.
Silently, the two wolves stole down from the hilltop, picking their way carefully. Russell placed his paws carefully on the hard ground, feeling the textures and shapes beneath him and mentally cataloguing everything he touched. Granite here gave way to soil there, which in turn melted into soft grass and small ferns. A field of pebbles about halfway down made him go around, for fear of dislodging one and sending it tumbling down the hill. Might as well bang a drum to let them know we’re coming if we’re going to be that clumsy.
This was not Russell’s first raid. Far from it. Back in the Caves of the Chosen, he had a belt festooned with trinkets and trophies of the many battles he’d fought since coming here, a year earlier. He had earned his Clan name honestly when he had stolen two letters from the neon sign that advertised a massage parlor where many of the “employees” were children. After seeing them all safely out, he had set the place ablaze with cleansing fire. Although the moniker he bore was originally intended as a small slight, he carried it with pride.
Tonight was the first time that he’d ever gone out with Ion, though. The black wolf was a legend within the Chosen of Fenrir, frequently vanishing for weeks at a time from the borders of the Chosen lands. When he returned, he always had fascinating tales to tell. But those tales were always backed up by the macabre souvenirs he carried in his pack; at any moment, he could pluck any item from a vampire fang to a crow’s feather out of his collection and give a detailed accounting of how, when, where, and under what conditions he came by the item.
As a living legend, the Elders often predicted that Ion would not return from whatever errand he went out on. Legends among the Chosen tended to have very short life spans, and Ion had a talent for getting himself into scrapes that the average wolf could never hope to get out of. Time and again, Ion had demonstrated his resourcefulness and cunning; thus far, these qualities had kept him alive where a lesser Scion of Fenrir would surely have fallen.
Russell entertained a brief moment of pity for the men whose camp they were about to invade, earning him a hard, sidelong glare from Ion. He shook his head hastily. Don’t make the mistake of thinking I have any sympathy for them, he thought. I’m just thinking that between you and me, this isn’t even a fair fight.