Dear Disappointed Fan: I’m Disappointed Too

Recently, I got a message on Goodreads from a fan asking when we could expect the next book in the Sixth Sense series. I went to GR to respond to the post but it had been deleted. I’d gathered the gist of the message in the partial view GR had sent me, which was a polite but slightly forlorn request for an update. And I felt like crap when I realized the post had been removed. Now I couldn’t explain the delay to the reader. I felt like crap about the delay of the next installment, too.

See, when I submitted Unspeakable Words to Dreamspinner Press back in 2010, it was on a whim. I never expected it to be published. I expected it to languish on my hard drive while I kept banging out stories in the hope one day, I would be a published author. I didn’t think of it as the beginning of a series or the beginning of a writing career. It was just a roll of the dice that came up a winner.

I went on to write other stories people seemed to like, most notably Crying for the Moon and The Boys of Summer. I don’t write quickly, so it was 2013 before I began thinking about John Flynn and Jerry Parker again and realized they still had stories to tell me. I published Walk a Mile in 2014–four years after the first book. I caught a little flak for that, which made me wince, but it wasn’t like I hadn’t been working on other projects. I’m a slow writer. I’m doing good if I publish a book a year.

I left the boys in a bit of a dicey place at the end of Walk a Mile, and I definitely didn’t people left hanging for a resolution, so I went to work right away on Truth and Consequences, which came out in 2015. I had plans to move right ahead with the final installment of the series, tentatively titled Deal with the Devil, but first, I wanted to expand on some things in Unspeakable Words, so I went back and fleshed out some parts I felt had been underdeveloped. Right, so by the end of 2016, I was looking at pounding out DWTD and a publishing date of 2017.

Only that didn’t happen, did it?

In fact, I more or less disappeared. I popped in for the occasional post, but for the most part, I ghosted you, dear reader. For that, I’m very sorry.

I’ve been trying to decide how much of my personal life I should share with you here. The temptation is to lay it all out as evidence I have every right to be derailed by life events from completing my series. I alluded to some of the issues in this post here, but I’m disheartened to realize I wrote that post over a year ago. Part of me wants to justify my failure, if not to you, dear reader, then to myself. By saying, “See? I’ve suffered. I’m not just sitting around twiddling my thumbs. I’m struggling here.”

That’s not to say I haven’t been writing anything. I have. The words have to be chiseled out of granite and the end result is the kind of blocky, formless statue a beginning art student might create. Most days I realize I’m trying to pump water out of a dry well, to inelegantly mix my metaphors here. Some days I think I no longer have the capacity to tell stories. I remind myself depression is a lying SOB, but the end result is the same, yes? No new story out this year.

I’ve been staring at this blinking cursor wondering if I should name all the losses I’ve experienced. Of the funerals I’ve attended. Of friendships that have crashed, and communities that are gone, the pressures of work and home alike. I started to list them, but decided on a better response instead.

This is the Social Readustment Rating Scale developed by Holmes and Rahe in 1967. Basically you add up points for the various kinds of stress in your life within a year (both good and bad) and if you score over three hundred, you have an 80% chance of developing a major stress-related illness.

My score is 816.

Eight hundred and sixteen.

That would make me giggle if it didn’t make me want to cry. Take your pick of the various stressors on the list and decide which ones I’ve experienced. Chances are, I have. The sad thing is I strongly suspect most of us have scores over 300, easy.

Okay, so the stressors occurred over two years instead of one, but that’sΒ averaging a little over four hundred a year for two years running. I’ve taken hit after hit again and again. And that doesn’t begin to count the stress of seeing what’s happening in this country right now. In fact, the only good thing about all the personal stress is that it has distracted somewhat from my anxiety over the direction we as a nation here in the US have taken. The downside of the national situation is that it makes our future seem very bleak (not just as a nation, but as a freaking species), which makes it harder to feel as though writing stories matters in the long run.

Don’t worry. I think in times like this, stories matter even more than ever. I take great comfort in posts like this one, Write Despite, by Chuck Wendig. I just find it hard to implement at times. At the end of the day, I’m wrung out emotionally and mentally, and that makes it challenging to be very creative. So essentially this post is for that poor reader who desperately wanted a hopeful update as to the next installment of the Sixth Sense series, and this is me saying, not this year. Maybe next.

Which means it will be five years since I published Truth and Consequences before you can even possibly expect the final installment to the Sixth Sense series. I’m sorry. I didn’t want to do that to you guys again.

And seriously, where did the freaking time go?


EDIT: The reader contacted me–the deletion of the post was because it had been published too early before she’d completed her thought. So my angst wasn’t necessary, but I think my apology was. πŸ™‚

20 thoughts on “Dear Disappointed Fan: I’m Disappointed Too

  1. Hi Sarah,
    First of all, I would like to that I loved your The Sixth Series so much that even if you told me that it would be two more years, while I would be a little disappointed, however I would still would wait that long just to get spend some time with John and Lee. Also which means that I will have to re-read the last three (for 4th time but who’s counting as it was going happen anyways). As an aspiring author myself, I can understand your frustration and self-doubt so I would like to tell you how much you have inspire me to continue on writing and to finish what I started 7 years ago. So to make a long comment short, you are AWESOME!

    • Aw, I can’t tell you how encouraging it was to read your words here. Every writer hopes someone fall in love with their characters. There is no higher praise than to hear someone re-reads your stories as well. But to be told you’re an inspiration (albeit a shaky one)? That’s solid gold. Thank you. You make me glad I didn’t delete this post. πŸ™‚
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Dear Disappointed Fan: I’m Disappointed TooMy Profile

  2. Since I left FB almost a year ago, and really removed myself from reading due to the drama in the writing world, I feel as if I have no idea what’s going on. I do know that I really love your books, even if you only have a few every few years, and I also know that the stressful life scale in your case needs to be your priority—-without working on your inner stress and inner health, there is nothing left for anything else (I can empathize with that). Keep your head up, keep moving forward, and I’ll keep watching and following you! I’m no one in the m/m fiction or writing world, but I am a supporter of you and your mental health πŸ™‚

    • I had no idea you’d left Facebook. Truth be told, I’m there so rarely, I’m out of touch as well. The rare times I’ve opened FB (as opposed to cross-posting to it), there’s been so much heartache and upset, I just didn’t have the energy to deal with it and I closed it again.

      The gas tank is dry as a bone, the fumes ran out a long time ago. I know you’re right. I’m taking measures to change the things I can and learning how to deal with the things I can’t. Things are slowly improving, but my energy is simply gone. So I know you’re right. Getting there is the hard part.

      Your support has always been a rock to me. Thank you. πŸ™‚
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Dear Disappointed Fan: I’m Disappointed TooMy Profile

  3. I’m sorry you’re dealing with so much *hugs* I look forward to the final installment in the series, but I’m also content to wait. Writing is NOT easy as it as, and you add stress on top….yeah, no.

    But if you do ever decide to just not write the final book, I do hope you’ll at least post a summary of what you were going to do, so we can have some form of closure~

    • No, I’m *determined* to write the final installment. I won’t leave you guys hanging indefinitely (unless I get hit by a bus!). πŸ™‚

      But I do worry I won’t be able to live up to everyone’s expectations. I know what I want to write, but I’m not sure the execution will live up to the previous standard, you know?
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Dear Disappointed Fan: I’m Disappointed TooMy Profile

  4. I don’t think that you need to justify your private life to us! I also don’t think you should pressure yourself to produce something for us readers just to make us happy. You are a writer, take all the time you need to be happy with the result in the end.

    Unless people are really toxic I think everyone will understand and give you your time. I want to read the fourth installment of the series, but I also read other books. So it’s not like my well has dried up and I need exactly that book right now. I can wait until it is ready.

    I never get readers, who demand things from writers. Writing is a creative process and creativity cannot be produced in a factory like your next car. Don’t stress yourself. (As long as a writer doesn’t give me a fixed date, where their next book is supposed to come out, I’m fine with waiting. I guess, if people have a fixed date, they are far enough in the process of creating that they can deliver on that day.)

    Good luck, many hugs, and thanks for giving us an update!

    • Aw, thank you. You hit the nail on the head here: You are a writer, take all the time you need to be happy with the result in the end.

      I think that’s part of my hangup. The delay has caused me to lose confidence in my ability to tell a coherent story. I’ve re-written the first chapter so many times in an effort to get the ‘right’ beginning, spinning in circles because I can’t decide on the POV. I just need to pick one and start writing, trusting I can fix the problems once I no longer have a blank page. πŸ˜‰

      Hugs and luck greatly appreciated. Thank you.
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Dear Disappointed Fan: I’m Disappointed TooMy Profile

  5. I feel this deeply. I know fans want more, faster. I’d love to give them that. But while my last few years have not been anywhere near as difficult as yours, there are still….issues. I get it. I think the best we can do is be kind to ourselves and keep pushing forward. <3 {{hugs}}

    • True. I think that some fans have gotten used to the high productivity of some writing teams as well, when many authors write in addition to putting in FT hours at a day job. I don’t think the reader was in any way pushy–just seeking an update when I’d said something a year ago about possibly publishing something this year–which ain’t gonna happen. It was a fair question. And honestly, I’m glad there’s the interest. πŸ˜‰

      I’m sorry the last couple of years have been hard for you too–though I honestly can’t say I’m surprised. I’m hearing so much loss and pain from everyone I know. Just about everyone I know is struggling in some way. πŸ™
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Dear Disappointed Fan: I’m Disappointed TooMy Profile

  6. Hi Sarah,

    We live in an age when people expect things to happen NOW. Many writers feel the need to obliged, and either burn out – or hate what they end up writing so quickly.

    So there will be a five year gap. That’s ok. Lot’s of authors work that way. Look at Stephen King and his Dark Tower saga. I think there was a decade between parts, lol. (Plus the whole getting run over, nearly dying bit). Anne McCaffrey? Several years between books in her Dragon series. JL Langley? Has been teasing us for over eight years about the next With Or Without book.

    It will happen when it happens.

    Fan expecting you to drop everything and just write the final book… sheesh. Life happens. Struggles are real. Authors are people. They have lives.

    I think I’ve said to you before “take your time.” You need to be in the right place mentally to write, to be able to dive into the world you’ve created. Opening that door in your creative mind… Can be hard.

    You have a lot going on, so no more apologising.

    The real question is not “when” you are going to write another Sixth Sense book – but rather; “Do you want to?” And if the answer that comes to your mind is “no,” then that’s perfectly fine πŸ™‚ Seriously, it’s fine. Stressing over this isn’t healthy.

    Authors don’t really owe their fans anything, and Fans… We don’t own you. Guilt should never be a reason to do something.

    I would love to another book from you, regardless of what it is. But when you are ready πŸ™‚

    • Aw, you’ve put me in some pretty exalted company here! Seriously, that made me smile, thank you.

      And you make a good point here–the answer is I do want to write the final installment, but I’m worried about not doing justice to the story I have in mind–as well as the series itself. I know, silly reason for not getting started, right? But I’ve lost confidence in my ability to tell a tale. I’m determined to do this though. Not just for readers, but myself as well. πŸ™‚

      Thank you so much for your kind encouragement here. It’s greatly appreciated.

    • Now I’m failing to respond to comments in a timely fashion! But in my defense, the website didn’t notify me of your comment. Your enthusiasm for this series never fails to encourage, so thank you. I appreciate that more than you could ever know. πŸ™‚

  7. Oh Sarah, I have only just read this and am so, so sorry to hear of your travails. Please never doubt that you are a writer, a weaver of stories and worlds; it may feel far away at the moment, but I refuse to believe that anybody can lose forever such an essential part of who they are. When the time is right, however frustrating and scary it is waiting for that time, the upsurge of creativity and urgency to tell a particular story will come back to you.

    I look forward to that day both for your own sake and because I love reading your work! In the meantime, I hope you’re able to find some respite.

    • Thank you, my dear. You know depression lies to you, but there are times when in the ability to write feels like it will never come back. I know that isn’t true, but there are days when it seems like it.

      Things *are* getting better, just slowly. So I cringed when I realized how much time had passed. I’m shooting for 2020, though.

      I hope you’re doing well–it’s so good to hear from you again!
      Sarah Madison recently posted..Dear Disappointed Fan: I’m Disappointed TooMy Profile

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