Welcome to my Second Acts Series!
I’m happy to welcome author Darlene Dziomba. Today Darlene, shares her reinvention story and new release, Up Close And Pawsonal.
I am running the final lap of my first career act, thirty-four years working in Finance for the University of Pennsylvania. Working in Higher Education comes with some tremendous non-work benefits. Amongst them is that once you reach age fifty-five, if you have twenty years of work service, you can take retirement. It is not a retirement with a lifelong pension or lifelong paid medical benefits. However, I can buy health insurance at the University’s rate from the University providers. An essential requirement for my second act.
I reached the years of service long before I reached the age requirement, and I used the intervening years to assess options. It was vital for me that my second act be something I would enjoy. I had spent decades employed at a task for which I had an aptitude. Now I wanted work that would give me satisfaction.
I made a list of the top things I enjoyed: travelling; gardening; reading and talking about books; being around animals. Then I thought about what careers could include those things and what training I would need for those careers. I ruled out attending Veterinary School because of the time and financial commitments, but becoming certified to raise and train service dogs was an option.
I conducted a lot of research. I made a lot of lists. I spent a lot of time figuring out potential earnings and when I could realistically transition from my salaried job to a job where my earnings would be substantially less.
Then a friend and I went to Bouchercon in Toronto. We are huge mystery fans and have been to many Bouchercons. I was listening to a panel of authors talk about mysteries where the protagonists were pet groomers, pet sitters, and pet walkers, and this idea came to me. I was a volunteer at an animal shelter and learned a lot about shelter operations. I love animals and books. I decided to write a book where the protagonist works in an animal shelter.
Animals and talking about books were some of the things I enjoyed doing. I had been told all of my life that I am good at telling stories. I set out on my path.
I participated in a Writing Workshop to get feedback on my draft. I joined Sisters in Crime and took a dozen courses, listened to numerous webinars, and lurked on listservs following writers’ thoughts about the craft and the business of writing. I meekly asked friend after friend to read my drafts and give me feedback.
It took years to go from an idea to a finely crafted book. Then I spent years trying to obtain a literary agent while writing the second book in the series. I eventually decided to self-publish my work. In 2022 I self-published Clues From The Canines.
In March, 2023, I will publish Up Close And Pawsonal. I have planned out my publicity and promotions by applying all that I have learned in the past year from other self-published authors and the SinC Grand Canyon Writers Marketing and More Network.
My advice to those pondering a second act is to be open to exploration. Your second act may not be the first, the fifth, or the fifteenth thing you think of trying. You may get an idea that requires you to develop skills you have never used or to use your skills differently. Keep going. From “I wonder if I can write a book where the protagonist works in an animal shelter?” I arrived at published author.
I’ve had to work hard, and I’ve had to learn new skills. There have been times when I was frustrated. However, I have enjoyed learning to write and crafting the Lily Dreyfus series and enjoying what I do is my top priority in Act Two.
A casual evening of listening to music by a local cover band turns into a murder investigation when a drive-by shooting destroys the tranquility of the night and critically injures two of the band members. Lily Dreyfus stressed and unsettled from having been at the concert, is informed that one of the dead band members is the nephew of her coworker at the Forever Friends Animal Shelter. Lily will leash together a set of seemingly unrelated events to seek the perpetrator and make them heel.
Author Bio and Links
Darlene is a member of Sisters in Crime National and several regional SinC groups. She combined her passion for the written word and animals into the Lily Dreyfus series. Darlene volunteers at the Animal Welfare Association, a New Jersey animal shelter, where she chats with the dogs while completing her assignments. She has a 30-year career in Finance at the University of Pennsylvania and is an avid reader, gardener, and traveler. Darlene lives in New Jersey with her four-legged best friend, Billie.