This is a photo from one of my very first author events, for my first book, which was an essay collection: Wyoming Trucks, True Love and the Weather Channel. I was so excited to be there, all shiny and wet behind the ears. I had a lot of ideas then about how my writing career would be – and most of them were wrong. Not because I was ignorant or idealistic (though I was), but because life takes its twists and turns.
I can say, however, that though many people told me I’d “made it,” I hadn’t – because there’s no such thing. And, though I thought my days of facing rejection and defeat were over, that wasn’t true either. On the other hand, many amazing things have happened that I could never have predicted.
I saw a meme on Instagram yesterday shared by my lovely friend Megan Mulry. It’s the Gen X reaction to the COVID-19 #stayhome initiatives.
It helped me to see this, because I’ve been feeling terribly disappointed about missing out on some events of my own – and it’s always good to realize that it’s okay to be upset. I can be both upset for myself and be concerned for people who are facing far worse trials. I was super excited about the release of THE FIERY CROWN on May 26. The first book in the trilogy, THE ORCHID THRONE, has been gaining traction with more and more people reading and recommending it. It was even a Staff Pick at Powell’s Books! Since I was planning to be in Los Angeles for SFWA’s Nebula Conference that week, I had planned for a release day party at The Ripped Bodice bookstore, then the mass autographing at the conference itself, then a jaunt for a signing at Mysterious Galaxy the following week – with maybe a little beach time in San Diego. I also have an event lined up at George RR Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema & Beastly Books on May 17 here in Santa Fe. Maybe those will still happen? We don’t know. But the Nebula Conference is definitely happening online.
I had shiny visions of THE FIERY CROWN really taking off. And, really, that hasn’t changed. It’s just my parties that might not happen. I truly feel for all the authors with March book releases who had everything canceled – and I’ve seen a lot of the writing community online expressing sympathy in particular to the debut authors. This is because there’s the perception that you only get to be a debut author once. Which is kind of true, but it’s also like virginity – it really depends on how you define it, extenuating circumstances matter, and really, it’s not as big of a deal as people think.
The thing is, we – and by this I mean human beings – tend to think we have One Big Chance at something. As a newbie writer, I recall being crushed by rejections from agents or editors on occasions I’d become convinced were my One Big Chance. Opportunities arrived, I seized them to the best of my ability, and they went rushing past anyway. It was tempting to give up on those occasions. After all: I’d tried and failed.
I think some of this perception comes from the tired saying “Opportunity knocks only once.” If that’s not a lot of pressure, I don’t know what is. What if you’re in the bathroom when opportunity knocks? There it goes: your one opportunity ever. Might as well die now.
It’s patently ridiculous. And it turns out, is a proverb probably adapted from Phaedrus in A.D. 8, “One lost, Jupiter himself cannot bring back opportunity.” Who knows? Maybe they had fewer opportunities to go around in those days. The opportunity population hadn’t rebounded from being eaten by dinosaurs.
Regardless, there are tons of opportunities. They present themselves all the time. Some work out; some don’t. Some we deliberately bypass because the cost is higher than we’re willing to pay at that time. Sometimes there’s a global pandemic and we have to stay home.
But if I’ve learned anything in these years since my ears dried and I’ve written something like thirty more books since that first collection, it’s that there’s no solid trajectory to success. As with all things, my success as an author – and of each new work – waxes and wanes, and greatly depends on how I define it. (Much like virginity and being a debut.) For all of you feeling like you missed your One Big Chance: you didn’t. I promise. It was one opportunity (or several) in a lifetime of them. Often the most amazing incidences are the ones you don’t see coming and couldn’t possibly have predicted or planned for.
We won’t have to #stayhome forever, and when we emerge from our sparkling isolation, we’ll be ready to party. It will be as epic. 😉
(For those patiently waiting on THE FATE OF THE TALA, it’s still with my copy editor. As soon as I get it back, I’ll turn it around and get it to you!)
Sometimes readers email me questions through the contact form on the website, so I’ve decided to do a periodic Mailbag feature here on the blog, because other people in the class might have the same question. 😉 Today’s questions are about THE ORCHID THRONE. For those who didn’t see yesterday, a chance reader happened to spot THE ORCHID THRONE at Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon. They’ve been one of my favorite bookstores for a long time now – and pretty much the top priority to visit when I first went to Portland, years ago. So, seeing my book as a Staff Pick there was a real thrill!! And then the generous David D. Levine (at the behest of fellow SFWA Board Member Curtis Chen) went to Powell’s last night and snapped a pick of the shelf talker (who knew it was called that???) for me, so I could read what it said. *Blissful Sigh*
And now, on to the questions!
I’m in the middle of reading The Orchid Throne and am loving it. I have a question about how Conri was able to acquire is muscled body. As a slave for 14 – 20 years, wouldn’t he have been malnourished and therefore stunted in his growth, both in height and mass? You would have the empire feed the slaves a lot of protein, at the least. But, they wouldn’t bother, since there’s plenty more slaves from the rest of the empire, right? Wouldn’t Conri more closely resemble his father, half-starved and missing all his teeth? I know these a really picky questions, but they keep coming up in my head every time Conri’s body type is mentioned.
This is something I thought about quite a lot – and there IS a really good reason that Con, Sondra, and the others were fed decently. BUT, you find out more about it in the sequel, The Fiery Crown, and it will become important in book 3, The Promised Queen. So, I can’t tell you too much without spoilering things. The short answer is this particular group was fed well and kept in good health ostensibly to mine more vurgsten. That also left them perky enough to escape and stage a rebellion. I don’t think toothless and emaciated people would be fighting off guards and making a bid for freedom. To hint at the long answer… think about who Con is. Sondra, too, and why Ambrose joined up with them.
Could you give an island in our universe that corresponds to the size and shape of Calanthe? Is it, say, the size and shape of Ireland?
I can’t because this is an alternate world and, as much as possible, I try to keep away from comparisons to our world. The characters in that world don’t think of themselves in terms of how Calanthe compares to Ireland, so I don’t either. Calanthe isn’t an alternate Ireland, nor an alternate Virgin Gorda for that matter. It’s its own place, so any measurements would be in terms of that world.
Second, if Calanthe is the Isle of Paradise, that would suggest a tropical/semi-tropical location. Where did Tertulyn get the ice to help cool Lia
Remember that Calanthe is a island of refined pleasures, too, and part of a vast network of kingdoms even before it was acquired by the empire. There’s extensive trade and shipping, so all sorts of delicacies – including ice – can be brought in. It’s a mistake to view a world on the verge of a technological revolution as this one is as being ignorant or unable to devise solutions to simple problems like insulation. Even in our own ancient world, non-tech civilizations employed clever insulation to bring ice to the tropics.
Is there a map of The Orchid Throne world available, even if just a very rough first draft?
No, I don’t, Drawing maps isn’t part of my process typically, as I see the world in my head. When I have drawn maps, it’s because my editor asked for them – and in this case, she hasn’t.
How old is Conri?
He’s about 28, a couple years older than Lia.
Thanks everyone for reading! It’s really wonderful to see the excitement for this series.
Some exciting news! Book three in the Forgotten Empires has a title!
I really love it, don’t you? I recall as a kid being captivated by the title “THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING,” the Arthurian retelling by T.H. White. It was one of the first times a title really piqued my interest. I feel like I’m evoking a tiny piece of that magic.
Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is our favorite quote about books and reading, and why. Come on over for mine. Literally: mine.
THE ORCHID THRONE ebook is on sale for only $2.99! This is a great deal, so go snap it up. Pretty soon the sequel, THE FIERY CROWN will be out, so now is a good time to get book one in your reading queue. I’ll be starting to write book three soon, so now’s your chance to offer a wish list for what you’d like to see happen!
An update on THE FATE OF THE TALA: it will not be out by January 15, 2020, as I’d hoped. BUT – I am finishing the final draft today or tomorrow. Figuring time for editing, I think I’ll have it out by the week of January 27. Really really. If you’ve preordered, you’ll get an email informing you the moment it’s ready for download. For those who don’t know, I’m doing preorders through my website store only. But, once I’ve got the book live, I’ll start adding it to all of the retailers as usual. So it will be up everywhere before the end of January!
That said, because I’m so behind, we’ll be featuring the first chapter (maybe more!) of THE FATE OF THE TALA in the Dispatches from Jeffe’s Closet going out at the end of this week. So, if you don’t already subscribe, you can sign up here.
I was having a conversation with my friend, SF and horror author Kelly Robson, and she was complaining about making little progress on the story she’s writing – and how she’s realized that the scene she was working on has to go another way. She’s been listening to me struggle with THE FATE OF THE TALA all these months, so she knew I’d commiserate. She also commented on her frustration, and how she hates “going in the wrong direction.”
I totally feel her pain.
Though that can feel like wasted effort, it’s really not. I liken it to those rooms in the funhouse (reinterpreted in this day and age as immersive experiences like Meow Wolf). Sometimes you end up in a mirrored room. Those are really cool, with the infinitely reflecting images, but once you’re done playing and are ready to leave, finding the actual doorway can be difficult. If you’re not into smashing your face into a hard reflective surface, you pretty much have to feel your way. Poke each mirror until something gives.
The relief at finding your way out is quite the thrill!