Monday, July 10, 2017

Thrill of Victory, Agony of Defeat

Well, it's been quite a weekend! And in more ways than one.

First a report on our horse breeding endeavors.

For the first time, two colts we bred were entered in the same race, an allowance race at the Downs at Albuquerque, right near our home turf. It was the first time these two had been at the same track together, much less in the same race. But it wasn't looking like a great scenario for either.


Blazing Away, or Zinger as we call him, was coming off a crushing defeat in a stakes race at SunRay Park where he ran next to last. It was only the second time in his career he'd not lit the board, and it didn't bode well for his future career.

Blazing Away

Echo Eight (who is, by the way, named in honor of one of Sharon's novels) was coming off a seven-month lay-up (rest) and had never run at this track. In addition, he had a new trainer and a new jockey. Although he'd had a couple of recent workouts that looked promising, they were run on a different track. The cards were really stacked against a strong performance, in spite of him winning his last race way back in November.

Echo Eight
The handicappers didn't think much of either of them. They were initially 15-1 and 20-1, the longshots of the field. Granted, they were up against some very talented horses, including Ghost Pro, a grey who everyone expected to win it big.

Funny thing about expectations...

When the gate opened Echo Eight came out like a rocket. He went straight to the front, had a challenger come within a neck, and powered up another gear leaving him behind by daylight. Meanwhile, whoever was running the megatron apparently was so convinced of Ghost Pro's abilities, they showed Ghost Pro in the lead instead of Echo. Ghost Pro was second to last at that point, languishing at the back of the field along with Blazing Away.

In fact, Echo Eight shot through the first quarter mile in 21.96 seconds. To put that in perspective, the first quarter of this year's Kentucky Derby was run in 22.70 seconds!

Echo held the lead into the turn, through the turn, and started into the stretch...but Blazing Away was already starting to make his move, splitting two rivals, he turned on the afterburners and was coming on like an express train.

Blazing Away caught Echo Eight in the stretch, and for one heart-pounding, eye-widening moment, we thought they were going to "hook" and engage in a stretch duel right down to the wire. For several seconds they ran neck-and-neck, stride-for-stride and our dream of a one-two finish looked like it was about to materialize right before our eyes. Talk about a best case scenario!

And then Echo ran out of gas. And Blazing Away kicked into yet another gear and started pulling away.

Blazing Away kicking clear. Ghost Pro (the grey) in second, Echo is third.

Ghost Pro finally made his move, but he couldn't catch Blazing Away who was still accelerating four lengths in the lead while the other horses tired. He won it by 4-3/4 lengths to the sound of a roaring crowd. And Echo was passed by several other horses to finish 5th. :(


Blazing Away -- All Alone at the Wire

What a moment. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat for sure.

If you'd like to see the actual race, the video is up on the Bloodhorse site, here:

Downs at Albuquerque, Race 6, 07-08-17

With our niece, Crystal,
and grand nephew, Jaxson.
After a quick check to be sure both horses returned in good shape, we had yet another thrill coming. We were invited into the winners circle by the owner to get our pictures taken with Blazing Away. It's the first time since the mid-1980s we'd been in a win photo with a horse we bred or raced, because we weren't able to be present for any of the other wins. Long time coming indeed. And better yet, our great nephew, Jaxson, also joined us in the photo. He had quite a first introduction to racing!

But we were to have yet another magic moment. Justin Evans, the trainer of our filly "Star," had three horses in the next big race, the Budweiser Special Stakes, including his superstar Redneck Humor, who has been undefeated in 2017 including five consecutive stakes wins, and has been called "the best in the Southwest." Not only did Redneck Humor battle from behind to a brilliant win, but Justin's other two horses took second and third.

Justin invited us to join him in the winners circle and we had our picture taken for a second time that night and got to hang out nearby while he and the jockey were interviewed by the media.

So while we're on the subject of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat...

I've Made a Decision

I haven't been talking about books or writing much on the blog these last six weeks. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I needed to take a hiatus...but in truth it was more than that. I needed to step away and make a decision whether to continue publishing or to end to my career.

Why? Let me explain what brought me to this point.

Inherit the Stars link
Five years ago, I was at the top of my game as a pre-published author. I had finaled three times in the prestigious RWA Golden Heart Awards. I had won contests from coast to coast with all three of my completed novels and I had just acquired an agent. At our Golden Network retreat in 2012, the theme was "The future's so bright, we gotta wear shades" and boy, was I feeling it!

It was like being on the crest of a wave.

Then the reality of being a science fiction romance author set in. My agent shopped my novel, Inherit the Stars, to all the big publishers. Again and again, the feedback was that although my voice and story-telling abilities were strong, they couldn't successfully market a SFR...but if I ever decided to write something in another genre, please submit.

Well, I didn't want to write in another genre. Science Fiction Romance is, and has always been, my passion. So my agent and I forged on. I co-published my first novel Inherit the Stars via my agent early in 2015. In spite of being named by LibraryJournal.com as one of the Best Books of 2015 in E-Originals, winning the 2016 Carolyn Readers Choice Award, getting some fantastic reviews, and my best (but apparently failed) efforts to "get it out there," it didn't really sell well. In fact, I didn't even cover my expenses in 2015. I was one tiny little voice in a throng of authors all shouting, "Hey! Take a look at this!" And I wasn't being heard.

With the release of Pets in Space last October I got a little bit of the sweet taste of success. The collection sold well and my story, StarDog, was well-received. Because it was related to Inherit the Stars, my novel started selling, as well as Farewell Andromeda, a novelette in a different era of the same series. But as soon as Pets in Space went off sale, my book sales dried up too. I at least covered my expenses in 2016, but my agent and I both realized at that point that it was time to end our partnership. We cancelled our contract very amicably on December 31, 2016.

And then I was on my own. With one novel and two novelettes published and a second novel that was in editing hell, I had to stop and reassess my time investment in publishing novels vs. my return, and my failure to gain a substantial readership.

I was honestly ready to throw in the towel and call it quits. The upcoming Courting Disaster: StarDog2 in the second Pets in Space collection would be my last published work. And then, on a whim of nostalgia, I went back through some of my reviews and read what fans had written about my work.

And that changed everything.

I don't have a very large readership (let's be honest and call it what it is--smallish) but almost everyone who left a review wrote wonderful, glowing, supportive, encouraging words. I got a little misty-eyed re-visiting them, and then, as God and fate apparently decided to throw in their two cents, one of my favorite songs from Nashville came up on my iPod.

Let me explain the story behind it, and why it spoke to me.

This song was sung by Gunnar (Sam Palladio) to Scarlet (Clare Bowen). The two had formerly been a couple and Gunnar had helped launch Scarlet's career as a singer. Although she had some initial success and was a rising star in Nashville's country music scene, she ultimately had a bad stumble and couldn't take the sting of defeat. She decided to give it all up, leave Nashville and return to her small home town in Mississippi. But before she leaves, Gunnar asks if he can sing her a song he wrote. The song is titled: "It Ain't Yours to Throw Away."


 
 
Swayed by his words, Scarlet decides not to leave and to give it another shot. Later, her star begins to rise once again.
 
But there's a bit more to the story. When ABC cancelled Nashville after it's fourth season, it was the fans who rallied in what amounted to a Twitter takeover, and on the evening of the final episode they managed to trend #SaveNashville and it lasted for days. I proudly took part in that blitz. One of the songs that was tweeted again and again was "It Ain't Yours to Throw Away." The message was clear. Nashville didn't belong to the network, it belonged to the fans, and the fans didn't want to let it go.
 
ABC didn't hear us. But County Music Television did. The result was that Nashville is now in its fifth season and is scheduled for a sixth. On CMT.
 
In both cases, the fans made all the difference, though they may not always realize how much influence they can wield and how much magic they can create.
 
So yes, this weekend I made a decision. I'm back. I'm going to give it another shot. Because it's what I love and what I seem to have a God-given talent for. And reading those reviews again made me believe it's worth another try.
 
Thank you, readers. You're the best.
 
See you next week. Have a good one.
 
 
 



4 comments:

  1. That's wonderful, Laurie. And I know exactly how you feel. I write for me - and the handful of people who enjoy what I write. They're what gets me back on the treadmill. Because it isn't easy, this writing thing. Chuck Wendig wrote a great essay which is worth reading, and saving for another 'bad day' http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2017/07/11/so-youre-having-a-bad-writing-day/

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  2. Wow, Greta, THANK YOU for that link. It made my day. Heck, it may have made my whole week. Going to have to share that with some peers. :)

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  3. All this. I'm now at the point of writing for myself, and when/if I have the money publishing for the few peeps who liked my other books. I just don't have the time, energy or money to try getting myself heard above all the noise.

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  4. I agree, Pippa. Being one small voice in a very large throng is tough, so I'm going to try to focus on getting some titles out before I invest a lot more time and money in campaigning. Hopefully I'm learning from my mistakes.

    ReplyDelete

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