Tag Archives: courtney milan

Is It All A Matter of Luck?

Jul 31, 2014

Hugh Howey WoolHugh Howey is one awesome guy. He’s written some fabulous books, compiled some awesome statistics, and has a great blog. He even scored one of the industry’s top agents as a self-published author and has had the film rights for his books optioned. He also happens to be super hot and ridiculously charming, imho. I got to hear him speak at RWA nationals last week. Hugh Howey is blessed, you might say. You might also say that he’s lucky.

I hear a lot of talk about luck and “magic” in the book world. There’s a sense that you have to write a great book and then be extremely lucky in order to make it into the stratosphere of publishing stardom. I also hear a lot of people say that luck isn’t an even thing, that some guys, like Hugh Howey, are just born under the right sign, positioned in the right place, and that they will always have a better chance of succeeding than your average schlub.

So, are some people just naturally luckier than others? Are some writers destined to “make it” where others aren’t because of some intangible, God-given magic that you or I just don’t have?

Heck no! I don’t think so. It’s really easy to dig yourself into a hole of despair by assuming that some people, other writers who have hit the big time, have something extra that you don’t have. It’s also a convenient excuse for not shooting for the moon. Because sometimes it looks like those awesome writers have been given something we haven’t. Then out pop the comparisons, and we start to feel really bad about ourselves.

One of the first workshops I attended at RWA nationals in San Antonio last week was a session on how to be a slow writer and still make a living off of your writing. Now, I happen to be a fast writer, but the workshop was being given by Courtney Milan. If ever there was an author I was going to compare myself to and flop into a pool of meh on the floor, feeling utterly unworthy, it’s Courtney Milan. She is amazing. She’s also insanely intelligent and can comprehend things that I, someone with to bachelor’s degrees and a master, can only blink at while drooling like an idiot. I want to be Courtney Milan when I grow up.

Right off the bat in her workshop, Courtney made a key statement. I wish that every writer who hopes and dreams and struggles could have been there to hear that statement. She said that any good writer who wants to make a living off of their writing CAN make a living off of their writing. The only difference is that for some it might take a little longer. That’s it. What it all boils down to is time, not luck.

the governess affairBut she did qualify her statement with something that I think is crucial for all writers to sit up and pay attention to. She began by saying she was presupposing that everyone hearing her words was a genuinely good writer. She also said that statistically, at least one person in that room of a couple hundred people was writing and publishing crap without knowing it. This sounds harsh, but I think it’s the key to everything and the secret force behind luck.

The question I ask myself all the time—ALL THE TIME—is whether what I’m writing is actually good. I constantly wonder if my craft is up to par. Maybe I’m the opposite of these mythical self-published writers who are spitting out garbage and publishing it before it’s ready, but I always think that I could do better. But rather than mope around wringing my hands about it, I study the craft of writing.

How does an established writer study the craft of writing? By reading for craft along with reading for story when I gobble up a book. By gobbling as many books as possible. By attending workshops and reading craft books. By hiring the best editors I can afford and seeking out the best beta-readers I can and listening hard to what they have to say…without being offended if they didn’t like what I wrote. By listening to the critiques that other people have gotten for their manuscripts, even if I’ve never read those manuscripts. By reading through submission requirements for various publishing companies, even though I have no intention of publishing traditionally.

Actually, that last one was an eye-opener, so I want to say more about it. I have a very dear writer friend who writes for Entangled Publishing. I was asking her how she liked them, which led to a discussion of their requirements in terms of tropes and pacing. So I went to the Entangled website and read the submission requirements for every one of their lines, studying what they were looking for, what tropes worked for them, and what they wanted to see in their stories. It has given me some real insight into what resonates with readers and how I might use those guidelines for my own stuff.

The point is, we make our own luck. I don’t think Hugh Howey or Courtney Milan were born more blessed than anyone else, but I do think they are both sharp enough to realize what the real work is and how it needs to be done. Luck is manufactured through hard, diligent work. And like Courtney said, anyone who is determined to make a living from their writing can make a living, given enough time and, I would add, given that they put in the work to ensure they’re publishing the best stories possible.

Don’t give up because you think you aren’t special! You ARE special because you’ve set out to reach a goal in the first place. You and I, we’ll be patient and tackle this thing together. Luck or no luck, we’re in it to win it!


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Top Five Books of 2013

Dec 30, 2013

And now for my final top five list of 2013. Of course I saved the best for last. I made a real effort to read more in 2013 than I have been reading lately, and lucky for me, I pulled that off! So of those 34 books I managed to read in 2013, here are the five that were my favorite.

stephen-king-on-writing-0011On Writing, by Stephen King – This automatically gets my number one spot (and the rest are in no particular order). In fact, this was the first book that I read in 2013 and the one that inspired and encouraged me to read as much as I did. Ironically, I have never read another book by Stephen King and I’m not sure if I ever will, but he is now totally my hero. The advice he gives about the craft and practice of writing is second only to the amazing story of his life. It’s so heartening to hear that a writer as accomplished as King has gone through all of the stages of doubt and angst, triumph and frustration that I have gone through myself. This is one of those books that I’m going to have to go back and read again and again whenever I feel the writer doubt sneaking up on me.

the governess affairThe Governess Affair, by Courtney Milan – I think this was probably my favorite fiction book that I read for the first time this year. (I re-read the Hunger Games trilogy, but I’m not counting them in this top five because I’d read them before) Courtney Milan writes exactly the kind of novel that I love. Both her hero and heroine were ordinary people, which you don’t usually see in a historical romance. They were not the upper crust, even though they worked with the upper crust. I found that refreshing.

But what really sold me on this book was the sharp, witty exchanges between the hero and heroine. Those letters they sent to each other when she was sitting out on the bench in front of the duke’s house were to die for! The originality of this story was the other major selling point for me. It wasn’t your same old tired historical romance plot. I loved that!

Welcome to TemptationWelcome to Temptation, by Jennifer Cruisie – Oh my gosh, this may be the funniest thing I read all year! I haven’t read all that much contemporary romance, but books like this are the kind of thing that would get me started. The characters were off-the-charts wacky, but they also managed to be believable. I love the way Jennifer Cruisie kept piling on one outlandish twist of circumstance after another until the whole thing had me rolling with laughter. Not only that, the love scenes were totally steamy! You’ve got to love that!

enders-game-novel-coverEnder’s Game, by Orson Scott Card – I can’t believe I waited this long to read Ender’s Game! I mean, I’ve known about the book for years. Oh boy, was it good! Completely absorbing. I have to confess that I kind of love good sci-fi, and I really love good alternative worlds. But what really made this book awesome to me was the fact that I was so absorbed into Ender and his world that I didn’t see some of the plot twists coming. I probably would have seen them if I had more distance and didn’t care about the characters so much, but nope. I wept bitterly when the truth of what was going on came out at the end. You know a book is awesome when you have to blink in order to read it!

the book thiefThe Book Thief, by Markus Zusak – Okay, maybe this one is cheating a wee little bit because I haven’t technically finished yet. I’ll post my complete book report once I do, but I am loving this book! It’s so moving and real, and at the same time the world of this book is so foreign to me. But one of the most incredible aspects of this book to me is the fact that Zusak breaks all the rules in the way he tells the story. You know, all those rules writers are told about plot structure and narrative style and backstory and not telegraphing the ending and oh so many things. Those rules lay in tatters around each brilliant page of this book! I’m in awe. And I think I’ll probably need Kleenex at some point when I near the end too!

So those are the books of 2013. 34 books overall. Eight 5-star books, two 4.5-star, eight 4-star, one 3.5-star, seven 3-star, three 2-star, one 1-star, and five “Did Not Finish”. And no, I don’t post those ratings when I do my book reports for several reasons. But there you have it.

My goal for 2014? At least 40 books. Here’s to hoping they’re all 4 and 5 stars!

What books did you read this year that really stood out?

2013 Book #23 – The Duchess War, by Courtney Milan

Aug 07, 2013

Yeah, this pretty much seals it. I’m a big fan of Courtney Milan. I read The Governess Affair a couple of months ago and absolutely loved it. Then I met Courtney in Atlanta during RWA nationals and found her to be a really nice, brilliantly intelligent person. So naturally I had her sign a copy of The Duchess War for me, and I actually paid for it too! It was the first of the 30+ books I got in Atlanta that I rushed to read.

duchess war


Yep. I liked it! Very much. I love how deep and dimensional Courtney’s characters are. Not only does she write in a non-standard historical time period (the 1860s), she writes characters who are not your standard upper class, wealthy, titled romance novel fare. Sure, the hero, Robert, is a duke, but he is a very unconventional duke. The heroine, Minnie, is firmly middle class with some decidedly unusual secrets in her past. They are a perfect match, but of course the path to love does not run straight. Continue reading

Metadata, Branding, and the All-Consuming Importance of WRITING

Jul 22, 2013

rwa-plain-logoAh! RWA 2013 is over and done, and what a great time it was! Aside from the fact that I injured myself on day one, minute one, second one of the conference, I learned so much, got to meet some of my long-time online friends in person, met some fabulous new people, I was really able to get a grip on this whole writing as a career thing. I feel like I’ve got a clear idea of where I’m going from here.

So what did I take away from this whole experience?

Write. You have to write. And when you’re done with that, write some more. That’s what it’s all about. A lot of time and attention has been given to social media, but now the tide seems to be turning. Social media is still super important, but not so important that you should drop everything you’re writing to do it. Especially in the growing ranks of successful self-published authors, the more books you have out there for readers to buy, the more successful you’re going to be. More is better. Continue reading

2013 Book #16 – The Governess Affair, by Courtney Milan

Jun 04, 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, there comes a time once in a blue moon when you pick up a book thinking, “Hmm, this should be good”, and when you proceed to read it your socks get knocked off and you turn into a dribbling fan girl squealing, “Oh my gosh! This book has everything I’ve ever wanted to read in a book ever!!!!!”. Well, for me that book was The Governess Affair, by Courtney Milan.

the governess affair

Yes, this book was so up my alley in so many ways that I did that whole thing of saying “I’ll just read one more chapter before going to bed” over and over. It wasn’t just good, it was awesome! It was totally the book for me. So let’s look at some of the reasons why The Governess Affair had me clicking pages so fast and hard…. Continue reading