How to Write Shorter Works Successfully

THE SORCERESS QUEEN AND THE PIRATE ROGUE comes out April 19! This is Book Two in Heirs of Magic, and you can preorder a copy at the links below or via my website. 🙂

   

This week at the SFF Seven, we’re examining the differences between writing a short story, novella, novel, series. We’re asking each other: Do you prepare for length beforehand or edit down (or add new stuff) afterward?

So, I have Strong Opinions about this. Something that may come as a surprise to exactly none of you. Come on over for more!

 

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.