Because I’m old enough to have messed up more than a few times in my life, I appreciate stories where characters get a shot at making right what they did wrong. In my experience, from career choices to relationships, that is a rare opportunity. So when I got an actual, real-life second chance to turn my very old novella Mixed Signals into a bigger, better story, I grabbed it!
I was never happy with the original edition of Mixed Signals, and honestly neither were a lot of readers. Those who read it were mostly disappointed in the way the ending felt cut off. Please know that I feel your pain! I get it. I really do.
So what happened?
At the time I wrote the story, I felt like I was under a lot of pressure from a lot of different directions, and that affected my writing. I was finishing up graduate school, coming down with whooping cough, unemployed and trying to find a job, and internally pressuring myself to write new books to release as quickly as possible. Something had to give, and unfortunately what gave was my commitment to quality. *sad face*
It’s not something I’m proud of, but there you go: I made a mistake. I pushed the novella through the editing/publishing process even when editors and my own conscience were gently — oh so gently! — suggesting that maybe it could be better. As an author, I know for a fact that a story can ALWAYS be better, so I just tuned that out. I had so much on my plate, and so much going wrong (whooping cough is no joke, y’all, DNW) that I made poor choices and that affected the first edition of Mixed Signals.
That’s not an excuse, but it’s what happened.
Years later, I still felt bad about bungling the story of Frank and Benjamin by not giving it the attention (and word count!) it deserved.
Sometimes, I think, you have to step up and just commit to something even if you are not sure of the outcome. In this case, one day when I was bored I went back to the original text file, opened it up, and started chopping it to pieces. I restructured some it, deleted some of it, and then went on to explore how I could make the plot more interesting. I wanted to really show what Frank and Benjamin have on the line in this story, and to give them the chance to fight for it.
Frank, with his “burden” of good looks and wealth, wandering around his life feeling like a failure and knowing that most people just wanted to use him as a pawn in their ambitions, became a lot more complex in the story. His reactions and behavior just plain make more sense! And then there was Benjamin, who went from “stereotypical but cute computer nerd” to “insecure yet adorable technology visionary.”
New characters were introduced. An antagonist appeared! Plot points shifted and re-arranged themselves! …and the next thing I knew I had ⅔ of a novel on deck.
There was no way I could change enough of the story to turn it into a new book. Doing so would, yet again, ruin the tale. I wanted this to be the better version of Mixed Signals and it was on its way to being just that, but…then what?
Did the story deserve a second chance? Did I? What could I do to earn it?
If you aren’t familiar with the publishing business, then you might not know that pulling a book and letting an author completely rewrite it for re-release is not something that’s done very often. Usually a “second edition” is more like when an author adds an extended scene or maybe just fixes some glaring mistakes here and there.
That is why, when I went back to Dreamspinner Press and asked if they would be willing to do an updated, expanded edition of the story, I was surprised when they agreed. I had backup arguments in support of it, and also plans to beg for the rights back if they refused. But no, they were thrilled to give me a second chance at making things right!
Now, after so much work and waiting, the newer, better book is being released on February 26th!
It’s not often an author like me gets a “do over,” that rare and wonderful second chance to actually tell a story the way it was begging to be told. I’ve taken the bones of the story, and the characters that I really loved writing about, and given them the story they deserve. I’m more in love with it than ever and hope, if you decide to give it (another?) chance, that you love it too.
Check out Mixed Signals today!
Devastatingly handsome pilot Frank Sheldon is doing his best to avoid his inheritance of money, charm, and good looks by rebuilding his life on his own terms after being discharged from the Air Force just before the repeal of DADT. When he unexpectedly meets the eccentric geek Benjamin Kaplan, sparks don’t quite fly, despite Benjamin’s obvious interest. Frank is not one to back down from a challenge, but what does any of that have to do with his sister’s campaign for governor, or the muckraking political website attacking her opponent, who just happens to be Frank’s unlamented, very closeted ex-boyfriend? It’s hard to fall in love when all you are getting is mixed signals.
Cooper West lives in Florida and wishes the weather was more like the Pacific coast, or maybe Hawaii, but currently works for the local university and is settled down for the moment where she is. She enjoys dancing, writing fanfic, and being curmudgeonly. Her cat thinks she’s not attentive enough, which is probably true. West’s goal is to make a living writing stories that people love to read.