What To Do When The Sky Is Falling

I know I haven’t updated here in recent weeks; the Worst Year Ever continues to eat up my life. I mentioned the death of my boss a few weeks back, and we’re still sorting out the consequences of that at work, though we’re also managing to get the magazine finished on time, which is the important bit.

The latest blow was the cancellation of my urban fantasy series. See that book cover over on the right, that says Spell Games? That’s going to be the last Marla Mason novel, at least from that publisher. A combination of the crappy economy and not-so-great sales = the end. Not sure where we’re going from here — my agent will see if other publishers want to pick up the series, and if not, I may write a fifth book anyway and self-publish, or do it as an online serial (like my ongoing novella Bone Shop), or something wacky like that. It’s still a story I want to tell.

This does give me the opportunity to address the question: what do you do when your career crashes into a wall?

If you’re me — and your wife was just laid off a few weeks ago and you lost your steady freelance work and making money is a priority — you hustle, hustle, hustle. This past month I wrote auditions for two different work-for-hire projects, one my agent chased down, one that fell serendipitously into my lap. I already got turned down for one of them — though they’re paying me a nice hunk of dough for the proposal I wrote, even though they’re not using it, and seemed to like me in general, just not for this project, so we’ll see what the future holds. It’ll be a while before I hear about the other one, but if it comes through: money, for pretty fun work. Here’s hoping.

I’m also writing short stories — those, at least, I can still sell without much trouble — and more actively pursuing reprint sales. There are lots of secondary markets out there, especially in the podcasting world, that pay pretty well, particularly considering the fact that I’ve already been paid for the story once when I sold it the first time…

I’ve gotten into the editing side of things too. I’m doing an anthology of reprint stories about the devil (Sympathy for the Devil) for Night Shade Books, and an original anthology of SF stories about artificial sex partners (not erotica, though, mostly) called The Naked Singularity for the new small publisher Fugu Press. Neither will make me rich, but it’s cool, interesting work I’m excited about, and it swells the coffers here in the PrattShaw house.

Plus I’m writing book reviews, which I haven’t done in years, and am quite rusty at, but it’s ultimately a way to get paid for reading books and having a few organized thoughts about them, so it’s not a bad deal.

The upshot is, despite wandering in the desert novel-wise, I’m still pretty busy. I haven’t even pushed the limits of work I could churn up — I’m still just doing stuff I like. If I get really financially desperate there are other ways I can make money by generating copy… it just won’t be very fun copy to write. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

In the meantime, I’ve got a couple of completed novels out on the desks of various editors, and am writing proposals for some original fiction projects I’d love to write, even if I do have to start over under a pseudonym (one even more pseudonymous than T.A. Pratt!).

See, I’m a writer. So what I do is, I write. Even when the sky is falling.

7 Responses to “What To Do When The Sky Is Falling”

  1. August 4, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    I’m sure all the hustling will pay off. Hope that fun freelance project comes through, along with the novels on different desks.

  2. 2 Terri-Lynne
    August 4, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    I would say “All will be well,” but I can see you’ve already landed on your feet, even if the ground is still a bit shakey underneath them. YOU ARE A WRITER. The kind we should all be.
    (You can’t see me, but I’m giving you a standing ovation. My cat is looking at me funny, so you can imagine that I’m being enthusiastic.)

  3. August 4, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    You’re where I’m afraid of being in a few months, but you’re showing me how to handle it if I get there. This is what makes a professional writer, I think, not merely having a book published.

    I’ll keep my ear to the ground for you, and send any job/networking leads I hear of your way!

  4. August 5, 2009 at 12:50 am

    Very sorry to hear that Spectra won’t be continuing the Marla Mason series, Tim. But it does sound like you’re handling things well and not curling up in the corner with a bag of cheetos and a bottle of bourbon and crying yourself to sleep (which, most likely, is what I would be doing in the same situation). Hopefully, some of these projects will continue to pan out, and you’ll be able to get some steady work. Sending good financial juju your way.

  5. 5 RKB
    August 5, 2009 at 1:24 am

    Are you on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com) yet?

    Are there career transition meetings in your area? My local job search group is run by volunteers and hosted in many churches.

    Have you set up a fan page on Facebook for your work? A fan page on MySpace?

    Have you thought about putting up a small ad on Facebook and see what pops up? I’m told their pricing is cheap to reasonable.

  6. 6 Jeff Huse
    August 5, 2009 at 4:31 am

    Sorry to hear about the decision, Tim. I’ve been following your work for a while now and I respect your ability and tenacity as an author. Just to prove them wrong, I just went to amazon.com and re-ordered all 4 of the Marla Mason books…maybe if enough people see the value of your writing, we can quickly get you situated with another publisher. Best of luck to you and, if you decide to self-publish, know that you have a voracious fan-base out there that will follow you and Marla wherever you go. Drop a line to Scott Sigler (scott@scottsigler.com) and see how it’s done right…


  7. 7 rachel aaron
    August 7, 2009 at 6:51 am

    I am mega-bummed at no more Marla. I just finished the third book and loved it. I have to echo others and say that I’m super impressed by your tenacity.

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