I did a lot of theater when I was younger, and one of our directors started the first day of rehearsals by teaching us the phrase “Cheerfully Flexible:” stuff will happen, plans will change, and you can either be a pill about it or take it in stride. I’ve tried to keep that as a mantra ever since, and I’m teaching it to my children now. Sometimes thing have to change, so you may as well be cheerful about it.
I’ve had to keep myself cheerfully flexible several times lately, as different circumstances both good and bad have cropped up to smack me in the head. Some of them are pretty much all upside, like the news on my ebook, A NIGHT OF BLACKER DARKNESS. I launched this ebook back in August, and while it didn’t make me a ton of money it still made me some, and I’m pretty happy with it, and people continue to buy it at a pretty steady trickle so hooray. One of the big things that happened was that an audio company bought the rights to turn it into an audiobook, which is totally awesome. Their contract included a six month exclusivity deal, meaning that for the first six months in which the audiobook was available, it got to be the only version available, and since the audiobook is now ready to go I took the ebook down on Tuesday. What I was not expecting was the deluge of questions saying “what happened to your ebook? I want to buy it.” I’m delighted there’s so much interest, and I assure you that the ebook will return in six months. Until then, please enjoy the audiobook, which will launch sometime next week–I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as it’s available. I wish I could offer you both, but…cheerfully flexible.
Some of the circumstances in which I find myself are harder to be cheerful about. I’ve known since the Summer that I would need to start working full time on the second PARTIALS novel (tentatively titled FRAGMENTS) in early November, which meant that I had to finish EXTREME MAKEOVER before Halloween. I did my best, but I didn’t get it done. FRAGMENTS easily wins the competition here–it’s a bigger project, which I’ve already sold, and which is under a tight deadline, whereas MAKEOVER is just a goofy thing I want to write–but that doesn’t make it any easier to set down one book and move on to the next. I can’t help but feel a little depressed about failing to finish MAKEOVER in time, despite the fact that it was a pretty optimistic deadline to begin with. FRAGMENTS is going to be a really fun project, though, and you guys are going to love PARTIALS when it debuts in February, so I’m very excited to work on it. And I do intend to go back and finish MAKEOVER eventually. For now, though…cheerfully flexible.
My brother had the chance to flex his cheerfulness recently as well, when he got laid off from his job last week. He’s been struggling for a long time with Severe Panic Disorder, which is kind of like always being terrified of everything: his brain chemistry is literally telling him that he’s in horrible danger all day, every day, and as you can imagine that gets very old very fast. He’s had a terrible time trying to finish his new book (the sequel to VARIANT, which came out last month), and it’s been all but impossible to do his real job as a Marketing Director. His company hung on to him valiantly, honestly much longer than any company I’ve ever worked for would have hung on to an employee who couldn’t work, but last week they just couldn’t anymore, and they had to let him go. Rob buckled down and tried to be cheerfully flexible, and meanwhile Larry Correia and I decided to flex an entirely different kind of muscle: the awesome might of the Internet. We organized a Book Bomb for yesterday (November 10), and tried to get as many people as possible to buy his book all at once, thus boosting its Amazon ranking, thus raising its visibility, thus creating (we hope) a bunch of extra sales from people who’d never known about it before. Success, as they say, breeds success. We spread the word and were stunned by the response: by the end of the day VARIANT had gone from #6847 to #51, reaching the top ten of Teen SF (#7, right behind the Hunger Games trilogy), and gaining notoriety as the #1 “Mover and Shaker” (ie, the biggest percentage of change) on all of Amazon. It was such a crazy jump in ranking that his friend who works at Amazon actually called to ask what the frack was going on. I spent most of the day watching Twitter and Facebook and Amazon, pushing the book and spreading the word, and it was a little like the finale of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” watching a whole community come together for George Bailey. My brother’s a great guy, and it was awesome to see so many people leaping up to help him out; today, long after we’ve stopped the book bomb, he’s still #128 overall and hasn’t left the top ten in Teen SF. Sometimes (most of the time) being cheerfully flexible means working extra hard to roll with the punches and make the best of your new situation. We worked hard for Rob, and it paid off.
And then sometimes, being cheerfully flexible means you just have to grit your teeth and deal with it. In the midst of yesterday’s book bomb I got the word that my sister-in-law had all but lost her years-long battle with adrenal cancer. She’s gone non-responsive, and we expect her to pass away within the week. She’s an incredible woman with a wonderful personality who never stopped fighting, and now she’s lying comatose in bed, 24 years old, with a devastated husband and a 2-year-old son. And all I could think was: I can’t Book Bomb cancer. I can be as helpful as I want, and as cheerful and as flexible as I can, and it’s not going to turn this around. Sometimes you can beat the bad stuff, and sometimes all you can do is hope there’s enough pieces left to pick up and move on. But even when life sucks, there’s still so many things you can do. We can help her family. We can help her son. And we can learn from her example and fight back against our own problems, which completely pale in comparison.