CHANGE means…growth

Rick Daley lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife and two sons, and they all live with a neurotic schnauzer named Leo. Rick is the author of The Man in the Cinder Clouds, a gripping tale about Kris Kringle and how he came to be known as Santa Claus. It wasn't easy. Rick is also the author of Rudy Toot-Toot, a hilarious tale about self-control (and the lack thereof) starring a boy who was born on a bean farm, and he has a special power. Rick's hobbies include cooking, playing guitar and bass, running, yoga, and wrestling great white sharks. Just kidding about that last one.

I have a saying in life: Adaptability is a key to survival.

Let’s face it, the world is a dangerous place.  Most of us strive to live happy and peaceful lives doing what we love, but this abject little monster called reality pops up and thwarts our efforts by changing things.  Reality abhors a static environment.  We can be passive and cope with change, but really, how long will that last?  Reality has time to grind mountains into sand; it can beat us in a staring contest or a game of chicken.  To get along with reality, we must be willing to change, to adapt to new circumstances.  We can’t control the world-at-large, but we can control how we react to it.

I have another saying in life: We are not measured by the challenges we face in life, but rather by the steps we take to overcome them.

Life is dynamic, a fluid story with ups and downs and unpredictable turns of event.  It is anything but easy…But almost every problem has a solution, if we are willing to look for it.  Sometimes the answer requires slow and steady action, other times we must alter course fast and sharp, and hang on for dear life. My writing career has seen many changes, but sadly not all my actions (or reactions) were noteworthy.  But I’d rather not talk about all my shortcoming, we haven’t the time.

One thing I did right: I succeeded in learning patience. To put it in perspective, me learning patience is like a lion learning to go vegan.  I plowed through the first draft of my first novel, fast and furious.  I queried immediately, and rejections came just as swift.  Eventually I took enough time to hone my query and I received a request for a partial from a highly respected agent, only to find that my novel still sucked (my words, not his, he actually gave kind and helpful advice).  I needed to re-write.  Not revise, not edit, but change every single word of the story.  Patience enabled me to re-write—a difficult decision for a 120,000-word effort that took two years.  But in accepting that massive change to my manuscript, I grew as a writer.

While I was chapters-deep in draft two, I read about an editor-turned-agent who specialized in children’s books.  I took advantage of her change in careers to reach out and query Rudy Toot-Toot, a 500-word picture book manuscript I had written years ago for my kids as a passing whim.  She liked the characters and the concept, but felt it needed to be drawn into something more, and urged me to change from a picture book to a chapter book.

RUDY TOOT-TOOT is available in print and Kindle at Amazon. “I thought the author was very clever and I loved his unique turns of phrase. He really captured the way kids think and behave. He created a story that was fun and different and helps children to learn to turn their weaknesses into strengths.”

I changed my writing project from my supernatural thriller, which was in an inspired stage of revision, to this children’s book, expanding it to 17,000 words over the course of five revisions.  I soaked up every bit of feedback my agent—who was a Big Six editor for twenty years— was able to provide, and learned the same principles that govern quality of a dramatic work of adult literature can actually apply to a silly chapter book about a little boy who was born on a bean farm (and who has a very special talent).  Again, the change led to great personal growth.

My book went on submission.  The patience I had developed was stretched and tested, but I reinforced it by starting a new writing project, and my restless mind fed on the preoccupation afforded by a new story.  I decided to go with the flow and write another children’s book, since it seemed my writing career was turning in that direction.

It was at that time I lost my job.  Faced with a newfound abundance of free time, I ramped up my writing as I searched for new employment.  In six weeks I had a new novel, an origins-of-Santa story called The Man in the Cinder Clouds.  I also found a new job, and with the comfort of gainful employment, I took time to edit and revise my new book over the course of six months.  In that same timeframe, my agent decided to stop returning any calls or emails, and I lingered in doubt about the viability of my traditional publishing career.  I watched several friends go indie, and I decided to change tracks and try it myself.

THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS is available in print and Kindle at Amazon, and for Nook at Barnes & Noble“[It's] one of those middle grade books that the grown-ups get sucked into along with their kids. You think you bought if for your young reader but after you browse chapter one you just sort of... can't stop.”

I published The Man in the Cinder Clouds first.  Rudy Toot-Toot needed illustrations.  I sketched some decent pictures, but quickly realized I am not a professional illustrator, nor did I have the time to become one. My release was met with excellent reviews; both adults and children loved the way I incorporated the origins of their favorite Christmas traditions into a story tense with action and drama.  The sales were good that first year.  Not great, but not disappointing.  I still have my patience, though.  This year has another Christmas.  And so will the next.  Some things never change.

Read Rick’s blog: My Daley Rant or follow him on Twitter: @rjdaley101071.

As an author of a memoir - Out of Sync - a story about the impact of expatriation on relationships, I believe the dynamics of change affect characters in storytelling as much as they do individuals in real life. If you’d like to share a story about what change means to you (or to one of your story characters), contact me to make a guest contribution to this insightful story series.