Monday was International Women’s Day, and I suppose that’s as good a reason as any to restart this blog. What follows will probably read like the world’s biggest pity party. So be it.
Let’s get a couple things straight first.
- I’m a WASP—that stands for White Anglo Saxon Protestant (I’m agnostic so the Protestant part is cultural, not religious). WASPs don’t admit weakness. We don’t share. Hell, we barely display any emotion at all. To do so is unseemly. WASPs are basically Vulcans—all tight-lipped logic on the outside, and for me, most of the time, it’s tight-lipped logic on the inside too. So bear that in mind as you read this screed, because I’m not the person I was a year ago, and I am damn sick of it.
- Everything I’m sharing here (ooh, I just shivered in revulsion—share? in public?) has little or nothing to do with COVID. Other than our daughter being home with us instead of in school, COVID didn’t change our lives that much. Both my husband and I already worked from home. We were fortunate to work in industries that were not adversely affected by COVID, so our income remained steady. We do have family and friends who have been hit hard by the pandemic, but aside from all three of us being infected with SARS-CoV2 (not fun, but for us, not the worst-ever illness either), we’ve escaped from this crazy year relatively unscathed.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will have noticed the last post is from October, when A Wizard’s Sacrifice came out. I was really excited to release this book, which had taken 4 years to write (actually rewrite, since it’s a reboot of a book called A Wizard’s Lot, just as A Wizard’s Forge was a reboot of Blade of Amber). I am proud of the final version of Sacrifice, because I put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into it. I mean, there are a lot of bloody battles in that book, and lots of sweat (as most of it takes place in hot, humid weather), and tears. Lots and lots of tears—it has Sacrifice in the title, after all.
Well anyway, I released my new book baby out into the world and…
I’m exaggerating, but nevertheless, the launch was disappointing.
(Psst, that’s WASP for devastating.)
I’d hoped for a big bang and got a raspberry fizzle. I invested in a Kirkus review in the hopes of using it to secure a BookBub New Release promotion, but the Kirkus review (though positive) appeared too late to use it in my BookBub application. Bookbub turned Sacrifice down. Then, most of the book reviewers and bloggers I sent copies to, even ones who had favorably reviewed A Wizard’s Forge, didn’t review Sacrifice. (Why? One doesn’t ask.) Finally, as part of my launch strategy, I worked with the narrator (the outstanding Leah Casey) to get the Sacrifice audiobook launched within 3-4 weeks of the eBook and print editions. We submitted the audio track to Audible in mid October and, based on how quickly the Forge audiobook was released, I expected to be able to market the Sacrifice audiobook by the end of October or early November and use its release to keep momentum going. But Audible didn’t approve Sacrifice until the end of December.
Between all of these missteps and SNAFUs, October’s decent sales tailed off to next to nothing by the end of November. To this day, my sales figures continue to skim the bottom like a flounder, with only the occasional pop up here and there.
But this blog really isn’t about how nobody likes my book baby (even if it reads that way).
It’s about how bummed I’ve been because nobody liked my book baby.
You see, I’m a woman of a certain age, and I’m not supposed to give a flying fig what other people think. I’m supposed to be embracing my power and asserting my right to be whoever and do whatever the hell I want. That means write the book I want to write—and read—and damn the eyes of anybody who doesn’t love it like I do!
I would like to think that the woman I was a year ago was that confident, even arrogant, woman who gives the finger to every idiot who doesn’t recognize her talent. A year ago that person was still certain she could find the tribe of people who would clutch her work to their chest and say with reverence, “You have to read this book.”
But if I ever was that person, I’m not her now. And I have been wracking my Vulcan logical brain to figure out the mystery of why this is happening to me.
Is It COVID?
When I have cried on others’ shoulders about the unloved book baby, some have suggested Sacrifice didn’t do well because of the COVID pandemic. This does not make me feel better. People didn’t stop liking or buying books because of COVID. Multiple authors of my acquaintance have released books this fall and winter and done very well, both critically and in terms of sales. So the lack of enthusiasm for my books isn’t because of COVID.
As for my mental state, we’ve had our share of COVID stressors, but as stated above, we’ve remained fully employed and mostly healthy. We’ve gotten off easy, and we’re grateful for that.
Is It a Bad Book?
No. It is not.
Well, of course I wonder whether it is, because of lack of sales and reviews. But most of the few reviews that have appeared are positive, which reinforces my belief that my writing doesn’t suck. Plus, imposter syndrome really isn’t my hang-up. I know I’m more Salieri than Mozart, but that’s OK. Salieri still had talent. (He was popular too, during his time, which makes me sad, because then I’m not really Salieri, am I?)
Of course, it would be nice if more people who have read the book would actually recommend it to their friends…
Is It Karma?
I look at other authors who are doing well (whether traditionally published or indie) and wonder, “Why them and not me?” I’d like to think that the reason why my books haven’t hit it big is because they’ve never, through luck of the draw, fallen into the hands of the right advocate. If Oprah tripped on your debut novel in an airport lounge, happened to pick it up and happened to open it and happened to love it, you would find a big giant audience for your work. On the flip side, in my noncreative life, I have been incredibly lucky. I have never faced real hardship, and with the exception of this and a few other bouts with melancholy (I don’t feel I have the right to claim the term depression), I’ve been happily content and comfortable. Have I done something that has caused the cosmic wheel of probability to dump a load of creative bad luck on me right now? Or is the relative good luck I’ve had in life just weighing against the scales and getting in the way of me making headway in the fiction world?
Being agnostic, I don’t really believe in karma, yet I don’t exclude it as a possibility. I also do believe luck has a lot to do with an author’s success or failure. I know too many fantastic authors who can’t make a living from their work, and then there are the multiple examples of best-selling authors whose prose or storytelling makes me gag. The fact so many hack writers have made it, and great writers haven’t, tells me luck has a lot to do with an author’s success. It’s your query/manuscript happening to land on the right person’s desk at the right time, and then being marketed to just the right niche of readers, that make it a success.
Yet the one thing successful writers do that I don’t, is produce. They write new stuff all the time. I am keenly aware of this difference, and while I’ve never questioned my own abilities as a writer (as above: imposter syndrome is one hang-up I don’t have), I have lately wondered whether I have the right stuff to be a writer, especially because my will and desire to create is another bottom-feeding flounder right now.
Ruminating on this topic hasn’t helped my creativity.
Is It That Thing That Happened Last Fall?
At the end of October I went through a Mean Girls–type experience, one that served as a jarring reminder that bullies are omnipresent. The incident was deeply humiliating and infuriating and rendered me suspicious of people I considered friends and colleagues. This incident wasn’t the first time someone had manipulated circumstances to achieve their goals at the expense of mine, but it had been so long since it had last happened (see above paragraph about my mostly lucky existence), that I had forgotten that not everyone shares my values or aims. I may write dark SFF about people who make morally dubious choices, but I tend to go through life thinking that most people act with integrity for the common good. Every time I am reminded otherwise, it damn near breaks me.
Is It a Woman Thing?
In the midst of a hot flash the other day, I had an epiphany:
The damn hormones are peeling back my thick skin.
This is why I’m so easily wounded right now.
Damn. I am a woman of a certain age, after all. Although my body hasn’t yet made up its mind whether I’m fully menopausal or not, the hormonal storms have got to have something to do with why I’m so stuck in my own churn right now.
This realization has been strangely liberating. After all, I’m sharing this with all of you—and I’m not even drunk or anything.
When I figure that out, I’ll let you know. If I feel like sharing, that is.