hit tracker Dave Shields Author Blog

A journal detailing my efforts to launch my career as a novelist. The goals are to share info about succeeding in this field with other aspiring authors, to provide updates to the many supporters who have asked me for them, and ultimately to build the momentum necessary to assure success in this venture.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Power of Truth

As Lance Armstrong is learning, it's pretty difficult to bury the truth. Liars have been known to use all sorts of techniques to protect their stories, but ultimately the truth is a powerful force. Even though Armstrong had a lot at stake, there are a whole lot of others who had skin in the game, too, and once Lance wasn't in a position to influence the peloton, the media, the governing body over cycling and others, the truth came crashing down on top of him. Clearly the weight of the deception became more than he could bear.

There's no doubt that Armstrong benefited greatly from his lies. Estimates put his net worth at $100 million, but he's almost entirely lacking in the sort of wealth that matters most. Few things are more important than solid relationships, trust and reputation. Lance's confession must be motivated, at least in part, by an effort to regain those things. My hope is that he's decided to offer a sincere apology that not only takes responsibility for the people he's tried to hurt, but attempts to repair the damage. Is that what I'm expecting to hear? No. Unfortunately I think it's much more likely that Armstrong continues to hide behind the types of deception and manipulation of perception that have worked so well for him in the past. This time, though, a lot more people are likely to see right through them.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Long Time No Post

There is so much to say that I don't even know what to say. The first step, though, is to wake my blog back up and begin talking. More to come.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

How to Lose Your Shirt... then put it back on.

I've always known my career would take many twists, but I never dreamed I'd turn this many unexpected corners. Not long ago I believed my writing career was on the verge of financial success. I'd had the incredible fortune of writing Saul Raisin's biography, and from the very first it began receiving critical acclaim. On the day of the books official release Saul made good on his amazing early declaration to me by competing in the 2007 U.S. Pro Cycling Championship. A year and a half before, on the verge of death, nobody could have dreamed such a ride was possible.

On the strength of the early reviews and also what looked like a powerful stream of upcoming publicity my distributor, Independent Publishers Group (IPG), placed thousands of copies of Tour de Life on bookshelves around the nation. Small publishers dream of this sort of an opportunity. Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Amazon all made large orders. Inside Edition, the news magazine show, sent a three person crew to Greenville, South Carolina to film a segment on Saul's inspirational return to pro cycling. A producer from the Ellen Degeneris Show told my publicist that if the ratings for the Inside Edition piece were strong that we'd get a spot on Ellen. Since Inside Edition is distributed by King World, the same organization that represents Oprah, we believed we also had a legitimate shot at telling Saul's story on the most sought after of all media outlets for books. Everything was going according to our dreams... in fact, things were going better than we'd dreamed.

Then everything changed. On the day the Inside Edition segment was to air O.J. Simpson got arrested in Vegas. Not surprisingly, given the focus of the show, we got bumped. My publicist and I made many calls to Inside Edition but were never again able to speak to a producer of the show. Within weeks the producer we'd been working with left Inside Edition. Some time later Saul made a call to Inside Edition hoping for an opportunity to at least see the footage, but he never got an answer.

Then in November of that year Saul learned that Credit Agricole would no longer allow him to race. A side effect of that decision was that the publicity Saul was getting further subsided, and as a consequence our already slow sales slowed some more. This combination resulted in the worst insult. You see, bookstores generally have 90 or more days to pay for their inventory. Even after it is paid for books remain fully returnable, so publishers face a big risk. As the grace period on all those books IPG had placed began to expire the bookstores made the decision to return the books instead of sending in payment. Every time a book got sent back not only did we lose the money for that particular copy, we also had to pay a re-stocking fee. Our tremendous small press accomplishment of getting so many copies on bookstore shelves turned into a nightmare. My small company ended up deep in the red.

Back in 2004 when a series of events prompted me to create Three Story Press I made my wife a number of promises. Some of them were financial since she has this curious determination to put food on the table for our children. Since I wasn't upholding my end of the bargain financially there was no alternitive but to search for a new career. After a shortlived job with one small company I found myself studying for the insurance exam in order to take a position with Aflac... the duck company. I had never dreamed I'd become an insurance agent, but the good news is that I made a great decision when I chose this company. Slowly but surely I dug my way out of my financial hole. Aflac has been an incredible organization to work for, and the flexibility they've given me ought to eventually enable me to continue with my writing as well. I still believe that my cycling novels can eventually earn a mainstream break (one production company is currently researching a film option), and Saul's determination to benefit brain and spinal chord injury patients through his Raisin Hope Foundation could spark that books sales as well.

Today I'm particularly happy because tomorrow I will officially qualify for a one week trip to Kauai. As excited as I am to explore Paradise, I'm even more excited to give my wife a vacation. I've asked more of her than I have a right to during this challenging attempt at writing fortune and fame. While I've received the non-monetary rewards of awards, recognition, relationships, and travel, she's come through the experience mostly empty handed. Thank you, Aflac, for helping me turn things around.

So, after losing my shirt in the publishing business I was able to put it back on via the insurance business, and I've had such great success in the process that I get to take my shirt back off on a warm beach this coming April. Life continues to be one adventure after another!

Monday, February 25, 2008

2008 Tour of California

My posting record has been less than stellar lately, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy. I just returned from another week-long cycling event, this time the Tour of California. Wow, what a well supported event! The organizers have done things right and the crowds have come out in force, despite some really bad weather. If you think it's just an endurance event for cyclists, though, sign up as a volunteer or purchase space in a booth. These events make marathons easy by comparison. Most mornings I was up before 5 am, and most evenings I wasn't home until 8 pm. Some evenings were much later.

It is always so much fun talking to cycling fans, and particularly to readers of my books. I've been blessed that so many people have reacted so positively to my work. It makes me particularly happy when young people tell me their impressions. I particularly remember an eleven year old boy who told me how meaningful The Race has been to him. He asked me lots of great questions, including, where do I get my stories from? I'm lucky, because I've never run short on story ideas and I can't imagine that I ever will. Writer's cramp? What is that?

Today I'm both exhausted and swamped. I've got a ton of work to get done before my family (including my parents), Saul's family, and Marty Jemison's family all go to the Moab Skinny Tire Festival next weekend. What a great event that's going to be!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My Hero, Saul Raisin

Two days ago my girls and I went bowling with Saul and Aleeza. We had such a fun evening, though I could tell Aleeza was distracted by something. The next morning Saul called me. He broke down in tears as he said that his dream of racing professionally had been crushed. You can learn more about the circumstances in this eloquent post he published to his blog this evening.

Over the course of writing and promoting the book we've written together, Tour de Life, our family has come to love Saul and Aleeza. Saul's parents have a special place in our heart, too. For two days we've been talking and thinking about them. We've only been able to communicate with the four of them a little bit since the news hit. As you can imagine, their lives have been thrown into turmoil.

Watching Saul's determination, and especially getting to know him as things have progressed, has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I believe to my core that Saul would have eventually won the Tour de France, but unfortunately, there were factors involved in reaching that goal that were out of his control. Saul's ability to race again at the pro level was dependent on more than just his recovery. Every doctor, every sponsor, every race organizer, and every governing authority who signed off on letting him continue were also signing on to a potentially enormous liability should he ever crash or cause a crash. Unfortunately, the time has now come when someone with a large stake in the matter is too fearful of the risks. As saddened as I am by their decision, I can understand why they might have made it.

Saul can't be kept down, though. If you've read his book or followed his blog I'm sure you'll agree that we're going to see more great things from him, even if winning a pro cycling race is not among them. As Saul always says, "Blue skies ahead!"

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The State of Cycling

The sport I love is in chaos. It's currently imploding under an enormous lie. It's not a lie that's unique to cycling, but for a variety of reasons this sport is currently exposed more than any other. That lie is doping. Here's the reality for the elite athletes in many sports:

The fans are led to believe that cheating is against the rules. Seems like pretty simple logic. The athletes experience is entirely different. They dedicate their lives to reaching the top of their chosen profession, and eventually they arrive upon a difficult realization. The unspoken code of athletics is, "If you're not cheating, you're not trying." All around them they see evidence that the athletes they once admired from afar are not quite so superhuman as the television has made them appear. Now on the inside, they are introduced to codes of silence and unwritten rules. They discover that there is a man behind the curtain and that the strings he pulls could make or break their career. They have choices to make: Do they take the next step? Do they turn their back and quietly walk away from their dreams? Do they blow the whistle?

If you think the second or third choices are the easy ones then you probably haven't stopped to imagine the dilemma that these men are facing. With only a small window of time in which to fit their career, make their name, earn their fortune, it's not so easy to "do the right thing." With everything invested including the support of loved ones and the dreams of a lifetime it's not so simple to simply walk away.

Imagine climbing Everest, a conquest that's usually years in the making. Even once you've reached Nepal the ascent is an arduous task requiring many ascents and descents for acclimation. It takes weeks, sometimes months, to get an opportunity to reach the top. Now imagine that your summit day arrives and that, having invested all of your resources and energy into gaining the peak you're surprised to come upon a yellow police line half-way up the final slope. The peak is within sight, but it's closed today for reasons that aren't entirely clear. Up the slope you can see that others have ignored the warning. Do you cross beneath the piece of tape, knowing that it's an illegal act, but confident you're not likely to get caught? Or do you turn around, giving up on your quest within sight of capturing it, thwarted by a rule that others seem to be ignoring? Is the decision easy? This isn't a perfect analogy to doping in sport, but it's closer than you might like to think.

Chemists, doctors, sponsors, advertisers, team ownership, fans, and other facilitators have put athletes (cyclists in this case) into a very difficult position. Man up or be seen as a quitter. The second choice isn't an alternative that sits well with many athletes. The pressure to cheat often feels greater than the pressure to abide by the rules, but even the act of cheating isn't set up fairly. If the athlete cheats with drugs it's almost impossible to do that without the help of others, but if he gets caught he usually faces career ending punishment. The facilitators rarely face anything. They just find another athlete to put under pressure. These facilitators are the true beneficiaries of cheating. In my conversations with elite athletes I've found that nearly all of them want drugs driven from their sports, but speaking so boldly, for them, could be career suicide.

It's a situation that must be cleaned up, not just in cycling but across the athletic world. As a fan of this beautiful and complex sport I hope that it can survive the cleansing. More than many observers I have confidence it will. Partly that springs from a very fortunate circumstance. I know Saul Raisin. This kid is good... not just athletically, but morally. Saul survived his terrible crash because of the tough lessons he learned in the sport of cycling. He's proof of how powerfully this sport can shape lives, and he's about to show the world that it's possible to accomplish incredible things on a bike while riding clean. Saul is an outspoken opponent of drugs and the drug culture. If sport is to survive we need a lot more athletes to follow his example. That's why I repeat what you may have already heard some cycling fans cheering. "Go Saul! Go!"

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Yesterday morning I found time for a ride. Once I got going I couldn't get myself to stop. At the top of the second mountain pass some guys talked me into riding down the backside with them. That meant there would be two big climbs between me and home, though. On the way back up the hill I really started suffering, and I was nowhere near as capable of hiding it as the super-human athletes you see in the Tour de France. I ran out of food and water and I could hardly keep my bike going forward. Eventually I found a shady spot and laid down for a while. Farther up the slope I stuck my head under a waterfall.

I descended the mountain just fine, but then on the second climb my legs seized. It was so bad that I almost fell off my bike into the center of the road. Eventually I found myself sitting in the ditch, incapable of bending my legs. It wasn't merely that they hurt, but my brain was incapable of even sending a signal to my muscles to bend my knee. After five minutes I started walking my bike and a little later on I was able to start riding. I rolled down the last hill but there were a few short hills between the entrance to the canyon and my house. The last one is a steep bugger (17%), and as I approached it I knew I couldn't possibly make it up. I got off my bike and struggled to the top at a slow walk. I came into the house and collapsed. My wife took one look and said, "What in the world is wrong with you."

What happened is that I do way too much writing and way too little riding. My ting/ding ratio is seriously out of whack. You should see the insane striations in my left pinky finger, though.