When Bad Things Happen to Good Stories


I spent two years in research and then development of a national magazine that only lived a year. It was a traumatic ending of two of the hardest, best years of my life. The magazine was, I still believe, one of the best to ever come out of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But like a lot of publishing endeavors, external circumstances joined forces to result in the demise of the project after only one year. Was I frustrated, angry, surprised? Yes, yes, and not so much. Would I do it again if I had the chance, even if it still was cancelled after a year? In a heartbeat.

Being one of the editors of ParentTalk taught me a great deal about what it takes to succeed–even if we didn’t–in the marketplace. And I still consider the launch of a national magazine an honor that very, very few have the opportunity to share.

firefly_series_mainI just got done watching a TV show on the Science Channel chronicling the tenth anniversary of the TV show “Firefly,” which I consider to be one of the best science fiction series ever to be aired. From the very beginning, the cast and crew of the show knew that they were in trouble, mainly because the Fox Network that they were on did not see things the way the producers and directors of Firefly saw them. Sure enough, after eight episodes the show was cancelled. Director and creator Joss Whedon went on to other TV shows and eventually directed “The Avengers,” which was the third biggest grossing movie ever made. But he always had a soft spot in his heart for the cast, crew and storyline of “Firefly.”

I don’t mean to put my experience in the same category as Joss Whedon, who has become a household name to many science fiction fans. But we have both experienced trauma as our brainchildren have suffered premature death through no cause of our own. And whether we are a Hollywood director or a indie author struggling to get his name known by the larger world, we grieve at death. If we are serious about our craft, we invest a great deal into our projects. Some that we consider special don’t end up being that special to anyone else. And miraculously, others that we don’t consider that special succeed in ways we can’t imagine. They’re like our children, and we have no way of predicting the future of any of them.

cover_onlyThat’s not to say that dead means permanently dead. I can attest to that. Pacific Press published my book If Tomorrow Comes back in 2000 and by 2002 it was out of print. When I went into the indie publishing business last year, one of my first projects was to resurrect If Tomorrow Comes. And I am happy to say that it has found a new life on Amazon as both an ebook and a traditional paperback.

But even if our projects don’t find resurrection, the time we invest in them isn’t wasted. As I tell my students, every word we write helps us grow as a writer. And in many cases, those stories can come back on other forms: short stories as anthologies, or a script, or maybe even a graphic novel. Nothing is lost in writing, everything has the potential for recycling.

c final4Even now I am fretting over the launch of a three-book series that I plan for May. The Champion is a major investment of mine, and I hope that it flies well and finds an audience that will appreciate it as I do.

But there are no guarantees in this ‘verse. Trust me.

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One thought on “When Bad Things Happen to Good Stories

  1. I agree with you. Some of the best books, graphic novels, movies, and TV shows never become popular, and some die when they ought to have thrived. It’s scary to think about, especially for someone like me who has done practically nothing but self-publish anyway, but there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the finished product all the same. And for what it’s worth, I’m really excited to read your trilogy.

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