Sad Stories and New Families

There’s been radio silence on this end again. For that, I apologize. I really shouldn’t stay quiet so long, but this time of year seems to really get to me.

September 13th  would have been my father’s 67th birthday. At this point in his life, he would have been preparing to retire and making plans to spend his Golden years enjoying the world he’d worked so hard to build. Unfortunately, that idea was cut short a year and a half ago when he passed away. Losing my father devastated me in more ways than even I realized.  I wasn’t myself at all last year, and now that the fog is somewhat beginning to lift from my mind, I’m realizing just how bad off I really was. That’s the problem with severe depression – those suffering from it often don’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late. You feel normal until you come out of it and realize how un-normal you really were. Normally I can fight it, and I couldn’t fight this. That scares me.

I’ve brought all of this up for a reason. The different facets of my mind have been discussing this for a very long while, but given this month’s activities, posting this journey in the wake of my father’s birthday seemed apropos, considering his death is what ultimately set me on this track. I’m going to tell you a story. Some of it is very sad. Some of it is scary. But it has a happy ending. Just bear with me.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

On April 2, 2012, my father went in for quintuple bypass heart surgery. The surgery went well, but we discovered that his lungs were weak and in bad shape from years of smoking. He tried to pull the respirator tube out of his throat, and had to be sedated. He stayed i

n that drug-induced coma for the remainder of his life. For three weeks, my mother and I camped out in the CCICU waiting room at Roper Hospital in Charleston, SC. I’d come home for a day or two, then turn around and go back to stay with her. My brothers came and went as they could, and we watched the ups and downs, the good days and bad, pass in a blur of floral wallpaper, cafeteria food, and heart monitors. At one point he seemed to be doing better and the nurses were hopeful. Then he crashed hard.

burning candle and heart hands

On April 25th at 12:00 PM, he passed away, with all of us standing by his side.

The next four days are still a complete mystery to me. We got back to my parents’ house (my mother’s house, I corrected myself more than once) later that afternoon, and I started writing. I wrote for four days in between trips to Walterboro for arrangements, visitation, and finally, the funeral. When I got home the evening of April 29th, I had a nearly complete story in my hands. I don’t remember writing it, and I wasn’t sure what I really had.

At the time I was working with someone I thought was a friend of mine. She’d recently started up a press and was trying to build her reputation. She had already published my first story, Haunted, and it seemed to be doing okay. We were talking one afternoon, just as friends, about all sorts of things, and the conversation turned to writing. She knew my situation and knew what I’d been through, so when it came around to what I’d written, she asked if she could read it.

So I sent the first draft of Devil’s Daughter to her. She immediately turned around and offered me a contract on it. Which I foolishly accepted.

I should stop here and explain something – not because I want to start a firestorm, but because it’s part of the story – that’s touchy and may seem a little cruel or catty. At the time I was publishing with No Boundaries Press, and the owner, Kharisma Rhayne, is someone  I thought to be a friend. We’d talked quite a bit and we’d become good friends over the year or so we’d been in contact. At least, I thought we had. What I failed to realize was that there were warning signs all over the place. First, she’d never told me her real name. She’d told me stories of her past and some of the bad things she’d been through, and we’d talked about both her children and mine, about families and pastimes and hobbies… everything.  I never once thought I’d end up on the receiving end of her cruelty.

What I didn’t realize when I signed that second contract was that I was being taken advantage of. I honestly don’t remember the things that turned out to be in it. I have the clear memory of reading the contract and thinking “okay, I can live with this”, signing it, and emailing it over to her.  The book released in November 2012 without announcement or fanfare. it had been out nearly four days before she even told me.

Then things began to get weird.

Off and on over the next few months, people sent me messages asking about a possible sequel to Devil’s Daughter.  It was praised for its emotional value as well as its creativity.  A few people even asked me to make it into a series.  Having written it out of grief, it did my heart good to hear that it was well accepted. I wasn’t really writing at the time, but Lydia kept talking. She put all sorts of crazy ideas in my head and I realized in early January that I was gearing up to write actual novels about her. That was the point when, in the middle of this awful depression, I started to see light at the end of the tunnel. I started outlining and writing. It got to the point where I was only happy when I was working with Lydia, and the more I talked to her, the more I realized that she had a whole lot to say and wasn’t going to be done any time soon.

In January, I got into a discussion with a friend about writing, publishers, and the series in general, and in the end I had a full proposal for a five-book series that I wanted to submit. Of course, at the very last minute I went back and re-read the contract only to find that there was a surprisingly one-sided first refusal clause written into it. And by one-sided I mean not just first shot at the next book, but first shot at any book involving those characters.  It appeared that if I wanted to publish this series with another house – because there was never any conscious intention of writing a series at the outset – I was going to have to pay through the teeth to get my rights back. We’re talking a $200 buy-out clause on a story that was less than 10,000 words.

I decided I’d deal with that when it came down to it. I sent the proposal over to this friend with a note that if there was interest, I would have to take care of that before we could move forward.

Fast-forward to June of this year. We’ve passed the one-year anniversary of my father’s death, and I’m starting to clear out a little. Logically I know that if he were to see me the way I was, he’d be upset by it. That was sort of the reason why he didn’t want to tell us he needed surgery in the first place. Anyway… I’m getting better. I’m writing again. Things are finally starting to look up.

Of course, at this point, nobody at NBP has been paid since August 2012. We’re in the middle of our third quarter without payments, statements, or even any words as to when this might happen. Kharisma has dropped off the face of the planet. A few of us started talking just offhand about whether payments were expected or not. We began to sort out who had gotten paid and who hadn’t. People were beginning to contact Preditors & Editors and Writer Beware, and everyone was getting upset. Once the clear consensus was made that a group was going to approach her about breach of contract, nonpayment, and rights reversion, there’s this bizarre coincidence:

I’m still trying to sort out exactly how to handle this process when lo and behold, that very night, an assistant appears.

“Heather”, whoever she may or may not be, pops up and announces that as of the end of that quarter, No Boundaries Press will be shutting its doors. Everyone will get their rights back. Everyone will be paid. Meanwhile, I’m talking to Kharisma, trying to sort out what’s going on because everyone knows we’re friends and they’re coming to me to find out what happened.  I get a few interesting stories, and then she falls off the planet again.  The last time I talked to her was June 17th, and that was right before the letters rolled out giving us the rights back to our stories.

Great. Score one for the home team. Now about my money…

Messages started flying about when we were going to get paid. We were told August 31st would be final close-out date. At this point I’m assuming that I’m owed a small chunk of change from two stories over a year and a half from first publication to final rights reversion. Did I hear anything about it? No. Am I upset? Yes. From June 30th until August 31st, I’m in contact with the No Boundaries girls, trying to keep this thing on the tracks. We’re all angry, but we ultimately decide to wait until after that deadline to start grinding the gears. I’m particularly angry because over the last two years, I’ve stood up and defended this woman against the rest of the world. I did everything in my power to help her, and in the end I walked away with no money, no books, and egg on my face.

Toward the end of August, I heard from the other publisher friend again. We exchanged some ridiculous dialogue, then spent over an hour on the phone one night.  We talked about Lydia and my plans for her, as well as my plans for the future and the best course of action now for world domination later. It was a strange conversation, but one that makes me laugh every time I think about it. And that’s saying something, because very few people have been able to truly make me laugh lately.

August 31st came and went. No payment. No statement. No contact. At this point I just want her out of my life and to put this whole mess behind me. Yes, I want her to pay up. Yes, I want the world to know that she took shameless advantage of about fifty people. No, I don’t believe any of the stories she told me. Yes, I want this to end. I don’t have the money to hire a lawyer and go after her, and for what it’s worth, I’d be far overspending. I’m ready to let it all go, but that niggling voice in the back of my head just wouldn’t shut up. The whole thing was still hanging out there, left unfinished. It was driving me mad.

Which is ultimately what led me to tell this story in the first place.

Like I said, it’s not a particularly happy story… overall I’d consider it a learning experience.  I’m much more wary of people offering “too good to be true” deals.  Everything I read, I read very carefully now. I dissect contracts, and if I don’t like it, I won’t sign it.  And I’m not as quick to trust people these days. They have to earn it.

Fast forward again to the happy ending.

On September 11, 2013, two days before my Daddy’s 67th Birthday, Seventh Star Press made this announcement:

SSP Banner

Seventh Star Press is proud to welcome S. H. Roddey to its author family with the addition of a wonderful new genre-crossing series, The Soul Collectors, which debuts with the release of Damnation Day in early 2014.

The dark fantasy/horror series introduces the character Lydia St. Clair, a bounty hunter who is a collector of souls due to the deal she made with the Devil to save her father’s life.  In the first book of the series, Damnation Day, she awakens from a troubling dream, only to find a charred piece of parchment with the word “Armageddon” on it.

The document contains her upcoming assignment, which will send her on an adventure filled with twists, turns,  and an assortment of deities, strange creatures, powerful artifacts, supernatural realms, and more!  An apocalypse looms, and it is up to Lydia to unravel mysteries and put a stop to the most diabolical of plans.

All of it is just part of the job for a collector of souls!

On bringing The Soul Collectors Series to Seventh Star Press and joining its author family, S.H. Roddey commented, “I like the family atmosphere. It’s nice to see that there’s still a publisher in this world that isn’t just about the money – that that an old-fashioned place still exists where the doors are always open and the people are always willing to help each other. It’s cozy, but still professional.”

It’s official, ladies and germs, Lydia is back! I’ve signed a seven-book contract with Seventh Star Press, and the first novel is due in to my poor, unsuspecting editor by December 1st. They have even graciously agreed to re-publish Devil’s Daughter in digital format. And when they call SSP a “family”, they truly mean it. I’ve made some wonderful friends already, and it’s an amazing feeling. It’s nice to know that there’s a group of people that have my back, just like I’ve got theirs.

It took awhile to get there, but in the end, I’d say things have worked out nicely. I lost a friend, but I’ve gained a new family, and today I couldn’t be happier.

Champagne Toast

Want the lowdown on NBP? Check out Erica Pike’s blog post:
When Authors Steal from Authors.


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