Learning all the things you never thought you had to learn, or debuting in a pandemic.

I simply can’t believe it’s been a whole year.

This week, we’re talking about what we learned as a Debutante. To be honest, this entry was hard to write, because my expectations about what I thought would happen this year debuting Architects of Memory and what actually did happen were so incredibly different. Like Pluto-versus-the-Sun different.

When I applied to be a Deb, my release date was January. I was supposed to have a book out by now, maybe take a tiny little tour to all the places I’ve lived, go to a couple conventions or writing festivals. None of that happened. And none of it was the fault of my glorious, brilliant team at Tor, who are all so great to me. None of it could. I would have honestly been fine with a cake. Hey, pandemic, is a cake too much to ask for?

Instead, I was stuck in the house since my daughter’s birth last July, alternating between taking care of her and writing a sequel while doing painfully little else, including showering and seeing other human beings. When the pandemic happened, it just got to be more of the same. I never got to travel. I didn’t get my cake. I don’t even honestly feel like a debut author anymore. I just today saw my book, because of pandemic-related printer issues. It’s like I’m still Schrodinger’s Author.

I know people want to hear about happy stories, not whatever this is. I just want to let you know that sometimes things are like this in publishing. This is not an easy life. Sometimes this happens to you, despite all of the brilliant and wonderful people at your publisher fighting to make it otherwise, and I want every writer reading this to know that, and to know that roadbumps like these are not the end of your career. In the words of Hamilton: don’t throw away your shot, no matter what happens:

So here’s what I learned this year in sequel-writing, baby-vomit-covered purgatory, from your favorite tired Deb just trying to hold on with her fingernails:

1. You can’t control publishing, so concentrate on what you can control. This means: write well, write a lot, and get what you write out there. Learn how to promote yourself in a world where there are no bookstores. I bet you never thought that you’d have to know more about algorithms than comma splices, but the world is a funny place these days.

2. Keep your writing friends close. It’s been delightful getting to walk this path with my fellow Debs and hear their ups and downs, as well as keeping in touch with other writers through places like Zoom and Slack. I’d be going slightly batty without them. Thanks, everyone.

3. Send local coffee and cookies to your agent and publishing team during the holidays. It’s fun, and it’s just a nice thing to do. And it makes up for when you’re too tired to notice a few things in the first pass and a bunch of them have to change a bunch of things right before go time. (I’M SO SORRY, EVERYONE.)

4. Take daily showers and exercise. Sweet Jesus, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

5. Remember to thank your agent. You might think the heavy lifting is done once the ink is signed, but that’s not exactly true. My agent kept on working all year as my release dates changed and various other things happened, including reading my entire sequel draft rewrite while at a pitch conference while holding down her duties to her other clients. Dorian is a badass.

6. Get a cake with your book cover on it for your launch, even if you have to eat it yourself. Especially if you have to eat it yourself. This is self-explanatory.

7. You can never bother your connections enough with pre-order requests. I mean, you can, but most of your friends will forgive you. Don’t overdo it on the sequel. (Engines of Oblivion releases this February. Pre-order soon!)

8. Throw yourself into the digital landscape. I had a really good travel year planned, and I was bummed when I wasn’t able to go, but I also was able to do a lot of really interesting presentations and attend talks I wouldn’t have normally been able to if they hadn’t been online. Education, promotion, and just plain fun—these developments are the only good thing about this stupid pandemic.

9. Get a therapist, especially if you have complicated feelings around work. Really. I’m not kidding. I knew this year would be emotional, but I wasn’t ready for the sack of bricks crossed with a Mack truck that was the emotional process of debuting. Make sure you have someone else to work through it all with besides your friends and your partner.

And that’s it, for now. I can’t wait for my launch day (9/8, preorder ARCHITECTS OF MEMORY here, see, I’m violating #7) and I really hope it all goes well. I can’t wait to hear what the new Debutantes have in store for us, and can’t wait to have so many wonderful new books to read. Love to all!

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Karen Osborne

KAREN OSBORNE is a writer, visual storyteller and violinist. Her short fiction appears in Escape Pod, Robot Dinosaurs, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny and Fireside. She is a member of the DC/MD-based Homespun Ceilidh Band, emcees the Charm City Spec reading series, and once won a major event filmmaking award for taping a Klingon wedding. Her debut novel, Architects of Memory, is forthcoming in 2020 from Tor Books.

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