Hard Writing Truths and Grace

Hard Writing Truths and Grace

I'm opening this with a view from my patio, which is a riot of spring green leaves, and finally we have blue skies again after much turbulent weather.

It has been a very challenging time for my profession. It's clear that technology is barreling forward with little thought to those who will be most affected: the workers making things themselves. I'm heartsick over it all.

It's also, quite frankly, been a disastrous era for me financially the past five years.

In 2019, I had reached an impressive state of selling many books at events. But it all went out the window the moment the pandemic started. It wasn't just the books, though; other opportunities vanished. Work dried up. People I loved died. I had to relocate across the country twice. My querying for agents (the second phase; the first was 2017 when I withdrew and decided to publish The Questrison Saga myself despite an offer of rep and full requests) in late 2019 to early 2020 was disrupted along with everything else. Suddenly I had a disaster-themed book that nobody wanted to touch; I can hardly blame them. That book may never be published at this point. I stepped away from querying again because of life and everything and that was the right call at the time.

I struggled to get LUMINIFEROUS out in the world; ACCRETION had published three days before my father passed away, and the fourth and final book of the saga proved to be tragic in every sense, and almost prescient as well. (I had written the bones of the series many years before, as some of you may know; so certain plot points had already been written before those sad early pandemic years.)

After that I tried AGAIN to query and that fell flat. Then I finally just decided to start submitting proposals to small presses, and I hit pay dirt twice, getting two book offers in one day in 2022. Oh, that was a fine day! My first traditional book deals. I was ecstatic. These books are my 2023 debuts: THE SHADOW GALAXY: A Collection of Short Stories and Poetry and THE INN AT THE AMETHYST LANTERN.

Tragedy struck again, and my mother passed away a couple of weeks before THE SHADOW GALAXY debuted. I was able to get two book signings in Salt Lake City and could see my aunt who lives there, Mom's younger sister. I had other book signings. I was exhausted and dispirited but pushed through.

I had by this point written a dragon fantasy and was so excited that it might be picked up by a big publisher. That never happened. I wrote another book during the time of my mother's failing health, and then it was on hiatus for a few months in my acute grief after her death. I returned to it and finished it. It didn't get picked up by a big publisher either, but I did sell it to Sley House Publishing, and that book is ATACAMA, out May of 2025. The third novel I wrote in 2023 didn't get on submission at all and so I started sending it out myself. It and the dragon book are now with multiple editors of small publishers, and I hope they both sell. I'd like to get them out in the world.

Meanwhile, in October 2023, THE INN AT THE AMETHYST LANTERN launched, and by that point I was well and truly jaded by my career path, because neither had gone as I would have hoped. It was also about that time my science writing work was slashed in half because of a corporate buyout.

And nobody was buying my books.

I mean, that's not exactly true: but very few folks were. I had hoped I might glean some income from book sales that could help me out, but that never happened.

In fact, I made more money in 2023 from SHORT STORIES than I did FROM NOVELS. I kid you not. (And it still was a pittance; not even enough for one month's rent.)

So...where does this leave me? I'm honored that my works have since garnered award nominations. But the fact is, I don't have the reach that more successful authors have, and at this point it's not looking likely that I will.

The hard truth now is that this career is not sustainable. It's not even really a career. So it's time for a hard reset. I don't know what it'll look like, but it has to happen soon. I go back to science or something wildly different from all of this. I don't know.

But some things I do know: I'm grateful for every single person who has bought my books. I'm grateful for those who shared their love for them in reviews. I'm grateful anyone reposts my book posts.

Social media has led to very few sales, and in fact I think I made more from my Saga books in 2019 when I had in-person events than I have made since across the board. It's not great. I keep writing and I keep hoping I'll get picked up and make money, but also, I'm a realist. It's magical thinking at play and I need to set it aside. I'll always write; I've got four manuscripts in the works even now. But publishers are VERY risk-averse right now.

So...I can't justify giving writing advice anymore. I have none to give, except to say, write what you love. The industry is in turmoil, we don't know what new technology and turnover will bring. Believe in your writing, give yourself grace, and, as always, write on.