Spice of Writing


We seldom talk about awards here at MagicalWords.Net. Why? Perhaps because we don’t want to fluff our own feathers and toot our own horns (both which sound distinctly uncomfortable, but, onwards and upwards.) However, awards are a part of writer’s life and hopes and dreams, right up there with sales figures. We’ve already said, many times, that sales numbers make or break a writer’s future publishing life. One bad book (even it is isn’t your fault that it sold poorly, even if it was a series of bad decisions by the company) and you are quite likely out of the pub’s list. But awards are a different matter. Awards…well, awards are the spice in a writer’s life, like a really good gumbo with the filé added in at just the right time and just the right amount.  


So, at the risk of the discomfort of horn tooting and feather fluffing, at the risk of sounding pretty stupid, I thought I’m mention awards today because of the effect that they have on my life. And it’s weird because, well, I’m feeling sort of pensive today. I shouldn’t be. I should be on cloud nine because I’m leaving town to go to Orlando for the RT awards. Trip out of town, no deadlines for a whole month. Plans to swim with the manatees in Florida after the con.

It should be a whoowhoo moment, because

my AKA is up for the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Contemporary something or other for 2008 for Sleep Softly. So I should be all excited and pumped, right? But I’m not. It’s exactly because of the award that I am down today.


Awards come less often than one might expect except for the top 200 selling writers in the country. I’ve been up for three big awards over the years, won two of them, and seen exactly no effect on my career. Awards are nice, but they don’t effect sales numbers or income or my level of happiness or anything important.


When I’m up for an award and go to the event, I feel like I should be home with family. Home writing. Awards make me look back and reflect on the things I did right and the things I did wrong, and then I grieve for the people I hurt. ((Not the ones I was mean to on purpose, mind you, but the ones I hurt by accident just because I wasn’t paying attention or had a brain fart or something. And yeah, I have been snippy to other people before and not cared that I was being mean, but that’s another blog…or maybe I just need a priest or something to confess the meanness and the fact that I don’t care that I was mean.))


Anyway, here’s how I am feeing. It came out as an open letter to my old wannabe self…


Dear sixteen year old Faith/Gwen/Gary/Future Pen Names/Geep (that last one was pronounced Jeep. Don’t ask.) I think that’s all the names I’ve gone by in life and on paper. So far.

Girl, I know you want to write. Your enthusiasm is kinda weird, but it’s also wonderful. You are a geek right now in high school, a misfit, living more in your head than anywhere else. Don’t feel too bad when the kids laugh at you for standing in the school yard staring off into space, sometimes with your lips moving. That mis-fitted-ness is just a symptom of the writer soul being born.

I remember the thousand questions and no answers. As I look back I want to say… Well… It’s been a fun ride. When you get to where I am now, you’ll have so many milestones to look back at. Just finishing that first book will pretty much freak you out. It’ll also feel pretty much like a miracle to you. And in its own way, it was. Statistics are against a finished book. You’re heard them before but:

1 in 100 people want to write a book.
1 in 100 people who want to write a book start a book.
1 in 100 people who start a book finish a book.
Only 1 in 1000 books written ever get accepted by an agent.
Only 1 in a 1000 books accepted by agents ever get sold to New York publishers.
And only 1 in 1000 books published in New York ever make the writer enough money to live on for a while, so they don’t require another income.

That first finish-a-book milestone will be a biggun. I remember your satisfaction, that deep down sense of accomplishment. I remember stacking the pages neatly. The feel of the paper. The smell of the ink. That sense of delight was worth more than any award I’ve had since. *That* was the reason I write.

Unfortunately, that first book won’t sell. Or at least not yet. I still have hopes, even after all these years, but it looks less and less likely. Or maybe the book looks more and more awful. Don’t despair. You’ll get better, I promise. A lot better, thank God! And finishing that first book will be what teaches you how to write a book and will show you what you need to learn to be come a writer. That first book will send you back to school for a higher education poetry class and a short story class. The poetry class is a bigger help than you expect as you learn the flow and meter of language and punctuation. But the biggest thing you learn from university level classes is how to plot.

Yeah, you don’t know how. Frankly you suck. But you learn. Really. Oh – and don’t let it bother you when one of the proffs makes a pass. But try not to laugh. I know it was nerves and shock, but he gets pretty insulted. You win a cash prize after his class and see your short story published in a regional literary magazine. And you don’t have to sleep with him to win, which is good because he was pretty ick in class. Had to be even more icky out of class. You win all on merit. Three (four if you count the pass as a landmark, which I don’t) milestones in a row, all in one semester, with seeing your name in print is the biggest by far. I still have that literary magazine.

Shortly thereafter you meet the cop who becomes the second part of Gary Hunter, your first pen name. The first words the two of you put on paper together get you published for a 2 book deal from Warner Books. Now that…that was a milestone. And for the last time in your life you stopped and smelled the roses.


After that came the book deal with Pocket Books, followed by the national award in the UK and the bestseller there. Pretty cool. The money is really cool too. But it’s all a blur because you worked so hard and long and worried too much. Not that you can help it. It’s your nature to push yourself.

But…well, that’s what I wanted to write this for. To remind you to stop and smell the roses along the way. To rest more and dance more and laugh more and worry less. To play your music loud and ride horses too big and too feisty for you and water-ski till you drop. And mostly, to remind you to spend time with the people you love. Because while the book milestones are great, it’s the people in your life who are the biggest milestones. It’s the people who matter.

So. I’m off to Orlando. And for some reason I’m all teary eyed. I’d rather stay home and rip out the front garden and plant new stuff. Really. I’d rather be home for my niece’s birthday tonight. Really. I’d rather be with Misty and David at RavenCon this weekend. Really. Especially that part. And the newer long distance relationship with Catie falls right in there. Why?

Because they are part of the people who have made it all worthwhile. Hugs to Misty, David, and Catie, and to all the readers who have made MagicalWords.Net such a success. This time on MagicalWords has been one of the most delightful milestones yet.







15 comments to Spice of Writing

  • I’d rather be with Misty and David at RavenCon this weekend. Really. Especially that part.

    I wish you were coming with us, too! *hugs* Be safe on your trip, have a wonderful time, tell the manatees I said hey, and we’ll swap stories when we’re together again.

  • I don’t think you can kayak in Florida since there is not much whitewater rafting… Maybe you can kayak in the ocean?

    P.S. – We love that you are a part of Magicalwords.net as well and that you take time away from your award winning writing to speak to we newbie writers.

  • Misty, thanks!
    I’ll bring pics!

    Mark, Hubby and I went nutso over paddling. We have 8 boats, 2 for fizzy water, 4 which are suitable for flat, still, and ocean water. We are bringing our 2 man IK (inflatable kayak AKA ducky) for this one. And snorkling gear for the river at Crystal Bay. I am far more psyched about the chance to swim with manatees than anything else. It’s been a … difficult? … trip already: a fender bender getting gas on the way out of town. RV Vs. steel barricade. Sheesh. But we are in great moods and I have a good book to read and all is well with the world! In other words, I’m over my maudlin snit. (Can one actually have a maudlin snit?) Hmmm.

  • 1 in a 1000 agented books is bought by a NY publisher? That a legit statistic? That because the bulk of agented books end up at small or ebook publishers? I’m very curious about that number.

  • Judy

    Enjoy the trip and the “Pat on the Back” for a job well done!

    You both deserve a little down time, so enjoy the Manatees. I swam with Dolphins once, but never Manatees. I’m jealous!

    Someday when your older, I’ll tell you the story of swimming with adolescent male Dolphins! <>

  • Jim, none of these can be called statistics. And frankly I am not sure where my *insider* (read a NYC agent, tho not the one David and I share) got them. And knowing him, I’d have to say he’s speaking with hyperbole due to the state of the market today. However it does indicate his worry about the financial state of publishers — not good except for Twilight’s Little Brown. As to small or ebook pubs, he dosen’t sell to them. Says he can’t make any money at it. So, yeah — take the 1000 with a shaker of salt. He used to say 100 unpublished writers’ manuscripts. And frankly today it is often easier to sell an unknown than a midlist.

    Judy, I’ve heard about the randy males! Can’t wait to hear it from someone who’s been there!

  • I promise to talk about awards if I ever get the one I want, but really, though I suppose it’d be nice, awards are not at all something that motivates me. Fan mail, on the other hand… 🙂

  • I really like the fact that you authors are not just working together to keep this site informative and fun, you actually know each other and hang out. That’s cool!

  • Catie — fan mail gets me going too. Looooove it. Even the kind that questions something I have written, points out a typo, or a discontinuity. Makes my day.

    NGDave, making writer friends is another spice of the writer life, and frankly, outside of the writing itself, the most important. The um, the salt of the dish. My very first published writer pal was mystgery writer Tamar Myers, who conned a bookstore out of my contact info and called me asking me to lunch. I was soooo nervous I, well, let’s just say I was very nervous. But we are still friends and that was 1994. We have lunch at a Cracker Barrell halfway between our houses once a month and the waitpersons get all nosy about the stuff we chat about. (Mystery writer. How do I kill this one? Like that.) She has a literary mystery book coming out called the Witch Doctor’s Wife, set in Africa with *real* magic in it. I’ve been toying with getting her to blog here about the magic she grew up with in Africa. Anyone interested?

  • Late to this party, too…. I’m on the road and only jsut got back to my computer. Faith, I really wish you were going to be at RavenCon with us, but ConCarolinas is only a month away, and we’ll have a blast there.

    I find myself doing the milestone thing at times — I look back on where I’ve been and how I got to this place. It’s not always a productive thing for me to do, because I’m not satisfied with where I am right now, and for every milestone there’s a disappointmenet. I’m better off looking forward, I think. Looking for the next milestone, trying to find that balance between reasonable goal and unbridled ambition.

    But hugs to you, Faith, and thanks for the kind words about MagicalWords. When we started this I never imagined it would be so much fun or that it would gain the following that it has.

  • Faith, I just saw the award listed in RT! I must say that is a very well-deserved award. I loved Sleep Softly a great deal and passed a copy along to the folks I work with.

    I would like to hear about the African Magic from Tamar Myers!

    I look forward to seeing you all (minus Catie–who needs to come to the con) at ConCarolinas next month. I’m there as a gaming guest this year, so I won’t likely see as much of you all, but I do want to get say hello and perhaps dine out with you at some point.


  • Faith,
    How can I kill this one? What if I let the apocalypse happen? What happens when a god is slain? All good questions, and I can see why the wait staff would be listening. I’m always up for reading great stuff. If your friend joins the gang here, I’ll be reading.

    Dave and Misty, Have fun!

  • Faith, I saw the award in my latest copy of RT. That’s wonderful! You deserve it. I loved Sleep Softly!!

  • Thank you all for the kind words. I did win the award, walked across the stage on the arm of a male cover model. ((They had eye candy everywhere and there was a lot of oogling. Yeah, by me. I am happily married, but not dead.))

    I totally bungled my speech, which is crazy because I never bungle a speech. Actually forgot my editor’s name. Eeeek. Rod-man’s cameras didn’t work which may be a good thing! I had a ball, but only (maybe) one pic. I am hoping the con sells a filmed version so I can hear what I said. Or maybe I don’t want to hear… LOL

    I am totally going to ((try to)) go to this con next year because it looked like such fun. Sooooo many fantasy fans, which was unexpected. And people were buying books like they were had stopped making trees.

  • Hey Faith! Just wanted to stop by and say hi and tell you how much I enjoyed meeting you! And how grateful I am you let me borrow your jacket. Talk to you soon!

    – Kristen Painter