A toast is in order, so line up your glasses! I’ll start the year in New Orleans, October 2011. The roller coaster ride began for me with the GayRomLit retreat, and it hasn’t stopped since. I’d been writing for a few months at that point, still unsure that my voice had any place in this ever growing genre. All I knew for sure was that I’d found a place where my values were accepted, my creativity thrived, and my friendships flourished.
All that was surely enough for a sassy southern gal! Add to that meeting some of my favorite authors in a city I’d always wanted to visit? Hot damn! Poppy had hit the high point. Pfft. So I thought. Then came the news—that little book I’d written, the one I never thought anyone but me would enjoy, had been accepted for publication.
How to describe that feeling for anyone who’s never experienced it for themselves? Well, for me, I burst into tears. Not the pretty kind of crying where white hankies brush away the stray tear. Oh no, this was pure, unadulterated sobbing—snot flying, mascara running, ending up looking like someone had died rather than a person who’d just had one of the most fantastic moments of their life occur.
Another funny thing happened that day. I didn’t realize it at the time, but have thought on it later. Who were the first people I wanted to know? A shift had occurred in my personal life. Most folks don’t know that I’ve had serious health problems since 2005. When you are faced with a battle for your life, you learn who your real friends are. My friend Meg—one of my best friends for nearly 20 years—had traveled to New Orleans with me. She was the lucky one who saw my first reactions to the email from Elizabeth North at Dreamspinner informing me of Mind Magic’s acceptance.
There’s something spectacular in having someone who has been there for all your battle scars to be there on the day when the scales tip in the other direction. My first phone call was to my brother. Even now, trying to find the words to express all my brother had done for me the past few years, my eyes fill with tears. I’m so lucky to have a brother like him. Some of you know that one of the main characters in Mind Magic, Gray, is partially based on my brother. He’s one of my heroes, a real life one who should be wearing a cape or one of those super cool hero outfits with fancy high-tech weapons to save the world. See, when I’d given up hope, my brother wouldn’t let me. He saved me. I was lucky enough to be able to save him not long after when his life took an unexpected turn. The bonds we formed through those trying times are unbreakable.
The next call surprised me a bit. It was pure instinct. As I’d struggled my way through the hows and whys of writing, I’d formed a friendship with another writer. Funny how you can become so close with someone over a shared bond like writing. When I called, Xara came running. Now, she might not want me to tell you this, but she thought I was mad at her. In her defense, I was a sobbing, sniffling mess. She showed up at my hotel room, ready to be told off for some unknown offense. Instead, we both ended up crying when I showed her the email. There aren’t enough words to describe how incredible this lady is, or how much her support has lifted me up.
All that to say that the first thing I have to celebrate this year is friendship. For Meg, Greg, and Xara, being there for me to celebrate meant even more, because they’d been there for the dark times too.
It’s hard to pick the next thing, but since I do have a word count limit for this post, I’ll fast forward to the release of Mind Magic in April, 2012. Can I tell you a little secret? One I’m not particularly proud of? At first, I didn’t want to tell anyone outside of my small circle about the book. I was afraid of their reactions. See, I come from a conservative family, and I doubted that they would be supportive.
I shouldn’t have. And for that, I celebrate them. My then 86-year-old grandmother demanded the first paperback copy of Mind Magic, and the incredible team at Dreamspinner helped me make that happen. I’ve never seen so much pride on my grandma’s face as she held that book in her hands. My parents, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins—all of them have their copies and tell all their friends. The irony in that is that Mind Magic is really a love story to my family. The closeness of the pack isn’t something simply from my imagination. It’s been learned at the knees of my family.
One of the things that surprised me most from the release of Mind Magic was that people actually got it. Seems funny, huh? I knew I saw alphas in a slightly different way, that I viewed family in a light colored from my experiences with my own. I wanted to show that to the world, but part of me was afraid it would go over like a lead balloon. Really, who has this great, supportive family lead by a guy who does the right thing? Well, me for one.
I’ll never forget some of the reviews that came in that first month. One in particular touched my heart. I’m always afraid to contact reviewers, to breach that sort of fourth wall between author and reader. But this one brought tears to my eyes, and I had to let the reviewer know how much his words had meant to me. In one of those funny ways of the world, he’s become one of my closest friends. Other reviewers, bloggers, readers—I celebrate you all. You’ve helped me build a foundation that is so strong, so filled with pride and joy that I can’t imagine ever sliding back down into those dark times again.
Some of you know that my year wasn’t full of only happy tidings. Not long after the release of Mind Magic, I had major surgery. I managed to mysteriously rupture two discs in my neck and had to have them removed and fused. Not a pleasant experience, but I’m happy to report that I’m doing much better. Who knew that those random pains in the neck were signs of trouble?
Not long before the release of my second book, Body Magic, another setback. My cousin, an army pilot, lost his life in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. The news sent shockwaves through my family. He left behind a wife and two small children. It’s still difficult to find the good in losing such an amazing man in such a violent way, but my uncle told us we had to. That he wouldn’t want to be mourned—he’d want to be celebrated for protecting his country and doing what he loved to do.
Those words hit home for me. As I geared up for GayRomLit 2012 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I took the time to look back on my year. I’ve learned some tough lessons this year, in life, love, and friendship. I’ve gained so much more than I’ve lost, and when I entered the Hard Rock Hotel in Albuquerque, I remembered that.
Last year, I was a reader. This year, an author. Funny what a difference a year makes, isn’t it? Bonds I’d forged in New Orleans were reinforced in Albuquerque. I’m stronger now than ever before, and for that, I have to thank this community of readers, writers, and everyone else who believes in me. I can’t list you all, but I celebrate each of you.
For the ones who have let me down, I celebrate you as well. The lessons I’ve learned haven’t always been easy ones. I learned that as a writer, who should be great with words, sometimes I’m not the best communicator. I’m sorry for that, but I celebrate it as something I need to work on. Thank you for helping me identify a weakness, and helping me find ways to turn it into a strength. I learned that sometimes people have their own agenda, one I can’t understand and won’t support. It’s hard to let friends go, but sometimes, you have to. It makes the friendships I do have that much stronger and brings new friends into my life. I promise not to hold grudges, because putting more negativity out into the world doesn’t help anyone. I celebrate the lessons you’ve taught me, because they’ll make the next few years better in the long run even if it brings some pain in the present.
As Chicks & Dicks celebrates their anniversary, take the time to celebrate both the good and bad in your life as well. Be thankful, be grateful, and be kind. If I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that those three words can make a difference in your life.
Body Magic, a follow up to Mind Magic.
A pack is only as strong as its weakest member. Rocky Harris knows how the system works. He’s been on the bottom rung his whole life. But when his alpha consigns him to the High Moon Pack to help them improve security, he finds his beliefs not just challenged but outright assaulted.
Cade Montgomery’s confidence took a hit when the pack’s cubs were kidnapped on his watch. He’s prepared to do anything to protect his family, even if it means working with Rocky. Maybe Cade doesn’t trust Rocky, but with the turmoil surrounding pack Alpha Gray’s unpopular decision to break tradition and mate with a mage named Simon, Cade knows more threats are coming.
Then someone declares war on shifters and puts the entire pack in danger. Cade and Rocky will need each other’s strengths to survive the impending battle—and the power of their growing attraction.
Buy Links Dreamspinner Press
A sassy southern lady, Poppy Dennison developed an obsession with things that go bump in the night in her early years after a barn door flew off its hinges and nearly squashed her. Convinced it was a ghost trying to get her attention, she started looking for other strange and mysterious happenings around her. Not satisfied with what she found, Poppy has traveled to Greece, Malaysia and England to find inspiration for the burly bears and silver foxes that melt her butter. Her love of paranormal continues to flourish nearly thirty years later, and she writes steamy love stories about the very things that used to keep her up all night. If her childhood ghost is lucky, maybe one day she’ll give him his own happily ever after.
Visit her on her web site: http://www.poppydennison.com/