From Rock Star to Ronin: The “True Dat” of This Writer’s Life

Closing in on the end of the summer, I’m looking back at the year with a cockeyed perspective. First, I’m trying to figure out what happened to the summer. Second, I’m trying to gauge how this year will come to an end. You would think with the launch of my second steampunk novel, The Janus Affair, I would think this was the banner year, especially with the showing Tales from the Archives is having at this year’s Parsecs.

It’s been a ride, safe to say.

For those of you following us on Facebook, you know that Pip and I returned from New Orleans just last week. What brought us to The Big Easy was an unexpected invitation to an unlikely match for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. We promised ourselves a priority of 2012 would be to make each appearance count, attempting to reach more steampunk-centric events like the Steampunk World’s Fair, a nice introduction to our target audience.

The Steampunk World’s Fair was also a nice introduction to other authors in this genre, one in particular being Stella Price. How does one describe Stella? If you know the phrase “She’s a pistol,” Stella would be the Smith & Wesson Model 500 of erotic, steampunk, and romance authors. She does not care to sugar-coat or look with rose-colored glasses at anything. She makes the call as she sees it, which is one of many reasons Pip and I love Stella. In one of those rare quiet moments of this year’s Steampunk World’s Fair, writer P.J. Schnyder told us of Stella’s passions, an event called Authors After Dark, a readers’ event focused on romance and erotica. However, we were assured that the event also welcomes science fiction, fantasy and horror.

The marriage of speculative fiction, romance, and erotica isn’t anything new as Nobilis Reed, Helen E.H. Madden, and even Pip nurture a healthy relationship between the genres. However, we have never taken a deep dive into its community.

We have never shied away from a challenge, though. So Pip and I asked Stella about attending. Stella enthusiastically invited us to attend. In 2013. 2012 was already booked solid and had been since 2011. Considering this was an event that catered to four hundred? Well okay then. So we accepted Stella’s invite and started kicking around ideas for Authors After Dark 2013.

Jumping to the end of July and it’s just under three weeks to go until the New Orleans edition of AAD. P.J. is spending a weekend with us and gets word that two authors pulled themselves from the event without warning. P.J., whom Pip and I are learning is not one to let an opportunity pass, looked at us and said “You want to come?”

P.J. talked to Stella. Stella talked to us. Then, just like that, Pip and I started to make plans.

All this may seem a bit impulsive, but this was a tough. Authors After Dark was an event catering to romance, erotic, and urban fantasy authors. They were planning steampunk events such as a costume tea, and other authors we knew from the genre such as Theresa Meyers, A.l. Davroe, Leanna Hieber, and Lia Habel were in attendance; but these were ladies (P.J. and Stella, included) that all leaned heavier to the romance side of things. The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences is a lot of things, but a romance? Perhaps, if you’re okay with a slow burn, much like Addison and Maddie from Moonlighting.

And if you don’t know Moonlighting, shame on you.

It was going to be a stretch, but as this was a steampunk-friendly event we decided to go for it. We’ve got a podcast coming where Pip and I talk to Stella at great length about this brainchild of hers, but in a nutshell Authors After Dark stand out from any other event as the programming is geared to put authors directly in touch with  readers, book bloggers, and (in one event, for us) book clubs. This is a big deal for the readers in attendance as their rock stars — authors — are in attendance, the ratio of readers to authors being a whopping four to one.

Why is this a big deal? Because while you do get interaction with authors at science fiction and steampunk conventions, that interaction tends to be the authors on panels, readers in the audience, and that’s it. Sure, kaffeklatches are now becoming a bit of a trend, but they are few and far between. (The last one I did was at WorldCon in Reno, NV. In 2011.)  At Authors After Dark, however, their programming is centered around meet & greet and one-on-one sessions in order to assure readers they are guaranteed time with authors. For authors, this is important because it is this that makes the Dan Brown’s, the J.K. Rowling’s, and (like her or not) the E.L. James’s of literature happen — word-of-mouth. Authors After Dark was truly three incredible days of discussions, lunches and dinners, and field trips throughout New Orleans; and before we left the 2012 event, Pip and I were already making plans for 2013.

Then, following a weekend of rock star treatment, I got back to work with the Meso Foundation…and was told that my position was being terminated.

Yeah. Second time this year and right on the heels of the AAD euphoria, I was being given “the talk” from the Executive Director and Chief Operations Officer that, while I was great at what I did, the Foundation needed to scale back where they were spending money. So I was let go.

As I did with Intersections, I took the termination like a professional. I wasn’t going to melt down. I wasn’t going to go completely against the Meso Foundation. If I was frustrated about anything, it was that I was excellent at what I did when it came to social media. The problems leading to my termination were beyond my control. With that being established, I got an assurance from the COO that I had a recommendation in the works. This letter couldn’t come at a better time as I found myself ahead of the curve on this layoff. A month ago, I was watching situations unfold that made me think circulating my resume would be a good move. Turns out that it was.

I sat on this news last week for several reasons. One primary reason was I needed to focus on finishing up another ACX project that, sadly, I was having a difficult time completing. I also needed to follow up with a few interviews and temp assignments that were coming across my desk throughout the week. There was also sitting down with Pip on what we could and could not do this month and September. The good news: Pip and I are still going to be at Watch the Skies’ Steampunk Extravaganza at Midtown Scholar and Dragon*Con this month. The bad news: We need to back out of FenCon in September.

Resolving all this last week means I can focus this time between jobs as valuable time to write. Dawn’s Early Light, the third Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel, is in need of attention. I also need to get started on the Morevi reboot, now under the working title, Darkwater. I don’t know when I will be completing it, but I want to get it started. Then I’ve got another steampunk fairy tale novella that’s been waiting to get underway. After the success of Aladdin and His Wonderfully Infernal Device, I want to see if I can do it again.

And yeah, I like novellas. They have all the cliffhangering delights of a short story with the details of a novel. So I’d like to see if I can do it again.

Through all of this, I am confident. I have to be. It is easy to be so as I have friends telling me exactly how I’m going to get through this bout of instability and uncertainty. Maybe my circles see something I don’t but I go back to what happened at the Meso Foundation — it wasn’t me. I wasn’t the reason I was terminated. It was something beyond my control, someone making calls that had no reason being made. It’s going to be okay, and my writing calendar offers me a sense of comfort. That, and a few opportunities in the distance. I just have to see all this through. And I have my friends, family, and faith to thank for giving me the strength to face this. Again.

It sounds like I’ve got a lot on my plate already; and with a book signing and Dragon*Con looming ahead, yeah, I’m not going to be given a lot of time or opportunity to take it slow and easy. That’s okay, you know? It’s not a matter of distraction, but more of an opportunity. I need to make the most of it.

I intend to. Watch me.

14 thoughts on “From Rock Star to Ronin: The “True Dat” of This Writer’s Life

  1. Sorry to hear that you got hit with another layoff, Tee. In a way, it is really sad that the non-profits, who need access to the best talent, can’t afford to keep that talent because their budgets need to go elsewhere.

    At least things seem to be going well on the writing and voice work fronts.

    Doc

  2. Sorry about the layoff, I’ve been there and sadly you and I are both in fields that when people need to tighten their belt, our jobs come first. So there is that. Good luck with the job hunt, the righting and everything in between. You know you’ll be fine and while it sucks and is a blow, in the end you will be.

    If only I were independently wealthy… I’d have some awesome corporation where only my friends worked. Oh, and me too.

  3. Very sorry to hear about the layoff. From your tweets and posts on Facebook last week, I was afraid it might be something like that.

    I was really looking forward to seeing you and PiP at FenCon but I completely understand needing to cancel. Hopefully my finances will improve enough next year that I can make it to some event that you both will be at.

  4. The good news is that you have a great deal more experience than most of your competitors for the Social Media positions. You are the real deal and you will stand out compared to the Social Media “Guru’s”.

  5. UPDATE: Got another round of interviews for a Social Media position with the APUS here in Manassas, VA. Thursday. 1 p.m.

    I’ll keep everyone posted on how this goes.

  6. Crossing fingers on the interview. Getting laid off sucks, but especially when it’s a LIFO (Last in, first out) type of thing. Plus, as a software tester, I’m also in a field considered an easy place to cut (short-sighted as that is).

    But hey, I bet that you get a new job even faster this time, as your resume gets more impressive with every job.

    (And yeah, layoffs go down easier when you know it’s not you. My last layoff was a big company, and I *know* my boss has no idea until they handed him the paperwork and told him to tell me)

  7. Maybe the universe is trying to tell you to focus on your writing! Good luck Tee, it will work out in your favor ,as you have support whatever you do. You are the real deal, man. People love you.

  8. Pingback: The Shared Desk — Episode #18: Authors After Dark (recorded LIVE in New Orleans!) | The Shared Desk

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  10. I’m so sorry that you got caught in another layoff. You known I feel your pain. You’ve got a great attitude about it. One thing that has always impressed me about you, Tee, is that you make your own luck. You’ve never waiting around for someone to hand something to you or give you permission. You just get out there and do it. It’s an admirable quality and one I deeply respect. Go get’em, tiger.

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