Why This Wasn’t Your One Big Chance

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. 😉

The Myth of the Debut Year

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is “If I could go back to my Debut Year…” You can tell I didn’t suggest this one because I don’t believe in the “Debut Year.”

See, the “Debut Year” is a bit of magical, sparkle-pony mythology of Author Land. Come on over to find out more. 

Writing About Real People – When Do You Disguise Who They Are?

012 My editor at Kensington, Peter Senftleben, asked me to draw a map of my world in the Twelve Kingdoms trilogy. This is what I plan to mail him tomorrow. In a poster tube, because it’s big! Though I hadn’t drawn anything in a really long time (20 years? More?), I enjoyed doing this more than I thought I would. 

 However, I also plan to tell him that, if they want to have a real illustrator redo it, my feelings won’t be at all hurt. 

 So, this week’s topic in the Word Whores bordello is – *rummages around in the purple pimp hat we store topics in* – Basing Characters on real-life people: the dangers and advantages. Hie on over yonder, to read more.

Covered in Cotton Candy

me and Katie LaneThis is from the Southwest Book Fiesta over the weekend. The fun and frisky Katie Lane, who writes hometown contemporary cowboy, helped me work the booth. We had a grand time.

So, yesterday was Ruby‘s release day. Whee! People asked me if I had a good day and I did. But it’s also kind of like spending a day at the amusement park – by the end of it you’re worn out, your cheeks hurt from overused smile muscles and if you have to face one more review – even a merry one with five stars and painted horses – you think you might just bury yourself in the cotton candy cart.

Yes, it’s fun, but also comforting to get back to normal life, with no clowns or roller-coasters.

 So a few late-breaking fun things happened. One, I found out that the Library Journal reviewed Ruby!

Verdict The third book in Kennedy’s “Facets of Passion” series (after Sapphire) is a hot and sensual read. Dani and Bobby lead each other on a sexy chase through nights of kinky sex, dominance, and submission, and the New Orleans setting lends a steady heat to the story.—Kristi Chadwick, Emily Williston Memorial Lib., Easthampton, MA.

I haven’t had a Library Journal review since Wyoming Trucks, so I was quite giddy about this. As a longtime lover of all things libraryish, this felt especially gratifying. I’m also excited to be reaching a new audience.

Late in the day, I saw a tweet that the Audible version of Ruby was available. It’s narrated by Sasha Dunbrooke, who did such a great job with Rogue’s Pawn and appears to be now the Official Voice of Jeffe.  I loved the work she did on Rogue’s Pawn so much that I even tried to contact her through Audible. They implied that she uses a pseudonym and that she would reply to me if she wished to, which she apparently didn’t. So I feel quite sure that she is a Famous Actress who is recording audio books on the side while she recovers from that horrific Botox accident.

The funny thing is, nobody told me that Audible was producing an audiobook of Ruby. They’d told me they were doing Platinum, which never happened. I suspect that Sasha was unavailable – probably filming a sequel to The Hobbit while wearing an Orc mask.

So, the carnival continues today. The lovely and ever-enthusiastic Amy Remus is hosting a giveaway for Ruby if you want to comment and win!

If you need me, check the cotton candy cart.

Begging for Blurbs

I’ve started hitting up some of my author friends for blurbs for Rogue’s Pawn. It’s really kind of an odd place to be.

To clarify right off the bat: a blurb is absolutely not objective. It’s advertising, pure and simple. I mention this because I sometimes see blurbs referred to as reviews. An example of this would be Jessica Andersen’s first book in her Final Prophecy series, which carries a blurb from J.R.Ward. If you can read that, it says: “An astounding paranormal world…I swear ancient Mayan gods and demons walk the modern earth!”

I mention this particular example because I bought this book back in 2008 when it came out, entirely because of the blurb. At the time I was completely addicted to J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series and I was willing to read anything connected to her. Turns out the two of them are good friends and critique partners, so of course J.R. did this favor for her writing friend and for a book she wanted to support.

But this is how a blurb is not a review. Blurbs are absolutely biased support and people argue all the time about whether they’re effective.

See, the other way people get blurbs is through their agents or publishers. An agent might ask one client to blurb for another. The publishers ask star authors to blurb debut authors. Theoretically the authors always read the book first. They’re allowed to decline also. There are some famous stories out there of authors who not only declined to positively blurb a book, but tried to dissuade the publisher from going ahead with publication. Neil Gaiman has a story like this. It also happened to a friend of mine recently with her debut book. Seriously, the publisher asked this big, famous author whose name you would totally recognize to blurb this book and the author wrote back this awful letter on how much she hated the book and that the publisher should cancel it.

Don’t try this at home people.

At any rate, being the requestor is a funny place to be, because you’re essentially begging your friends and acquaintances for the favor of not only reading your book, but saying something nice about it. Or at least compelling. It’s kind of a fun game to read blurbs and discern when the blurber was just trying to think of something positive and interesting to say when “I loved this book!” is simply not a possibility.

Back when Wyoming Trucks, True Love and the Weather Channel came out, I was much bolder about asking. I asked writing teachers and famous authors both. Barbara Kingsolver’s agent wrote me a really lovely message in reply. Mary Karr didn’t bother to answer.

For some reason, I’ve lost some of that brashness now. Maybe I understand better what the big authors’ lives are really like. Marcella was egging me on last night to ask Robin McKinley and I was abashed at even the thought of asking her. I’d feel like a puppy peeing on her shoes.

Actually, given how much attention she lavishes on her Hellhounds, that might be an effective approach.

So, for now I’m hitting up my friends – especially the ones who’ve already read the thing and made nice noises about it. As I screw up the chutzpah, I might see if some others want to read, with an eye towards blurbing.

Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be good enough to ask someone like Robin.

Unreal Books and Sales Figures

Our spring here is being a lion one minute and a lamb the next. The grape hyacinths bloom in serene splendor even as the wind whips away the patio furniture cushions.

Yesterday I went to this costume shop to get a few things to supplement the RT wardrobe. I went in Saturday and the gal said most of her stuff was at home and she’d bring in possible pieces and meet me with them on Sunday. When I got there yesterday, she had a friend there waiting to meet me. I’d explained I’m a writer, about the RT Booklovers Convention and the costume balls. In the course of introducing me, the shop owner said “And you write real books, too, not those ebooks, right?”

I said I write both. Technically true.

It amuses me, though, that I’ve now sold more copies of my unreal ebook, Petals and Thorns, than were ever printed of my real book, Wyoming Trucks, True Love and the Weather Channel. I know it will still take time for the concept of ebooks to permeate through the population. The shop owner also asked me to bring in photos of the convention and, since she already had my card, I told her that I’ll be posting photos all week, if she wants to look at my blog. She said she’d have to get someone to show her how to do that.

Meanwhile I flipped through my alumni magazines for my sorority and my alma mater last night. I might be a few months behind. Both magazines are glossy, full of rah-rah articles and hopelessly boring. They seemed to focus on things that I simply don’t think about much. Such different worlds we can live in now.

I know that people will adjust their ideas about what a “real” book consists of. They already are. Over and over I see people comment online that they received an ereader for a gift, weren’t sure about it at first and now love it.

I haven’t shared stats on Petals & Thorns in a little while. The numbers keep going up, which continues to astonish me. Each month I open my royalty statement expecting a crash like back in October or January. But no.
As you can see from the percentages, Fictionwise has sold the most copies. It looks like All Romance eBooks and Loose Id are neck and neck, but that’s a bit of artifact – most of those Loose Id sales were back before October. In fact, all sales through October were Loose Id’s. The All Romance sales were after that. It will be interesting to see what happens from here!

Posting will be sporadic this week, but I’ll try to throw up photos, at least, from the convention.