By: Staci Stallings
Authors who choose to publish their own work are sometimes surprised by details of getting a first book published. Little things like the challenge of applying for a copyright for the first time or the craziness of getting the cover just right. But there is one detail that most relish and have thought about long and hard–the dedication.
Who do you dedicate your first book to? Usually, that first one is pretty easy because you’ve had a long time to build up in your mind who you want to honor, who has stood by you, who has encouraged you, who has been the one to think you are not completely crazy.
But after the first book, and certainly after the first several, the dedications get a little harder. I mean you’ve already dedicated one book to the people who were first in line, and you don’t necessarily want to dedicate them all to that person, so sometimes dedications can be quite dicey. Then people come along in your writing career that make dedications easy again. People you never saw coming but who impact your writing and your life so drastically that honoring them is a no-brainer.
It is coming up on the fourth anniversary of the day I met Dennis. I think most of you know Dennis. For those new here who don’t, Dennis was my writing partner for three truly great years. He was my friend and the co-founder of this blog. In fact, without him, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.
We are also coming up on the day Dennis passed away–one year ago–on June 2. It’s almost ironic that as we approach the intersection between those two dates, I would be finishing the first novel I’ve written in nearly a year.
Those of you who know me, you know that I don’t plan my novels. I don’t usually plot them out. I don’t really have a plan other than go where the Holy Spirit says. So it’s not like I consciously decided to take a year off. In fact, I didn’t. I’ve been writing on two other novels off and on over the last year. They just haven’t had that burst of power yet that spurs one from the “being written” stage to the being “written” stage. I don’t know why that is. Couldn’t tell you if you asked me. They just haven’t.
What I do know is that after Dennis’s death, writing which had been my haven from life for… well forever… became really difficult. I would sit to write and there was so much I wanted to say about life and death and what it all means and if it means anything. I took several detours into writing non-fiction, trying to sort it all out, to make some sense of it. But to be honest, writing was painful in a lot of ways–especially writing my novels of romance.
Because my sounding board was gone.
The worst thing that can happen to a writer is to have something that perpetually yanks you out of the flow of writing and back into real life. My kids have filled that roll for many years now. “Mom, I want some juice.” “Mom, someone’s hurt.” “Mom, we’re hungry.” And they always pick the worst possible times too!
Then for awhile it was my brother and then my brother-in-law’s deaths. I would be writing and suddenly, I would remember, and the unreal world was stopped by the real world.
After Dennis’s death however, it was the writing itself that stopped me. I would be crafting a scene, and my mind would say (as it had often for three years), “Oh, Dennis is going to love this.” And instantly, the story was gone, and the ache of losing him was back.
It was really, really tough.
In fact, during one of my forays into one of the detours off the romance path, I was lamenting how hard it was to write the “new” stuff. One of my friends came back with a message. “Please don’t think I’m crazy, but I keep getting this message that is for you. I don’t understand it, but maybe you will… It keeps saying, “Hey, Staci, don’t force it, girl. You know it will come when it’s right, when it’s ready. And don’t forget you write ROMANCE–and YOU don’t need a formula. Just follow your heart.” And then she ended it, saying she also heard something she didn’t even know what it meant– “boo-ya!”
Boo-ya? Seriously? Now that’s funny because I knew exactly who that message was from.
The really funny thing about all of this is that Dennis would really have liked this particular book–though it would have made him completely nuts and he would have complained to high-heaven about me “keeping them apart” for so long. The funny thing is that the premise of this book is that the two involved people don’t exactly like each other much at the beginning. They are strong and stubborn and willful. They have their own opinions about life, and NOBODY is going to talk them out of those opinions. In fact, the book is called “That’s Debatable” and if there were two words to describe me and Dennis, it would have been those two.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that who knows when or if this book will ever find the light of day. When/if it does, I hope I remember to dedicate it to Dennis. If not, I want it stated for the eternal record here and now that this book IS dedicated to Dennis–my partner and my friend.
I still miss you… in case you were wondering.