May 23, 2012

Made It Moment: Mike Orenduff

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:05 pm

The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier

If Mike Orenduff has been reading the Moments since they began, that’s about as long as I’ve been hoping he would contribute one. As so often happens, sharing a Made It Moment with all of you is a moment for me.

Mike is one funny guy, in his books, and in this post. Also like his books, this Moment contains wisdom. Maybe making it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Maybe it can actually have a deleterious effect. Luckily, the concept is flexible. Once you achieve a milestone as Mike did, you can always say, What’s next?

I’d still call thunderous applause making it, though. Read on…

Mike Orenduff

I began reading “made it moments” on Jenny’s blog about the time she came up with the idea, and it’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed reading about the wide variety of events or accomplishments writers count as making it, but I never imagined I would be a contributor. I didn’t want to have a made it moment because in order to make it, you have to know what “it” is. In a recent post, Michael Esola defines it as selling a million books. He’ll know he’s made it when he accomplishes that. Others have more modest “its” – holding your first book in your hand or doing a bookstore signing. But I didn’t want an “it” because I was afraid I might make it. Then what? I wanted to keep writing. I like the journey. So I didn’t set a destination. Maybe Esola has the right idea. If I set selling a million books as my goal, I wouldn’t have to worry about making it.

Then I discovered that you don’t have to have an “it” in mind. One can just pop up. In my case, it was my third book, The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein, winning the Lefty. I had never set that as a goal. In fact, when I received the form from Left Coast Crime to make nominations, I nominated only Rob Kresge’s Murder for Greenhorns for the Bruce Alexander award for historical mysteries. Then I received an email from the person collecting the forms saying, “Your book is really funny. You should nominate it for the Lefty.” I wrote back and said I hoped someone would nominate my book, but I wasn’t going to do it myself. What I didn’t know was that the number of nominations is important. I figured you were either a nominee or not. But only the five books that received the most nomination make the short list. Fortunately, enough people nominated my book that it didn’t need my vote.

Don’t get me wrong. I self-promote like most authors. I was delighted to make the short list. I was elated to win. But it was not a personal goal. Hearing my name called, walking up to the podium to thunderous applause, and giving an off-the-cuff and well-received acceptance speech were my fifteen minutes of fame. But the afterglow lasted a lot longer than fifteen minutes. I enjoyed the invitations to speak and do signings, the congratulatory emails and phone calls, and seeing my name bandied about on the Internet. I luxuriated in it. What I didn’t do was write.

I excused my lack of writing; I was busy. But what could excuse the lack of urgency I felt about returning to my craft? That’s when I realized I had it. The Japanese call it ‘victory disease’, the tendency to slack off once a goal is accomplished, the enervating desire to enjoy the fruits of victory with no thought about the dedication that got you there. Winning the Lefty was the made it moment I had dreaded because I knew subconsciously that it would take me away from the journey. Once I figured out that out, I got over it. I’m about to release book #5 in the series and the gap between it and #4 is the longest so far, a result of the vacation I gave myself after winning the award. I don’t think I’ll fall victim to that the next time I win an award. Or maybe I’ll never win another award. That’s O.K. I’ll keep on writing either way.

Mike Orenduff grew up in a house so close to the Rio Grande that he could Frisbee a tortilla into Mexico. After receiving his Ph.D., he became a university professor, going on to serve as President of New Mexico State University. After retiring from higher education, he began writing his award-winning Pot Thief murder mysteries which combine archaeology and philosophy with humor and mystery. Among his many awards are the “Lefty” national award for best humorous mystery, two “Eppies” for the best eBook mysteries and the New Mexico Book of the Year Award.

His books have been described by The Baltimore Sun as “funny at a very high intellectual level and deliciously delightful,” and by The El Paso Times as “the perfect fusion of murder, mayhem and margaritas.”

The 5th book in the series, The Pot Thief Who Studied D. H. Lawrence, is forthcoming in the summer of 2012.


  1. Another excellent post and another interesting author! I love the titles of Mike’s books!

    Comment by Connie J Jasperson — May 23, 2012 @ 8:46 pm

  2. Wow, Mike, you really put things in perspective. I’d never looked at what can happen, and I’m glad you shared your story. Still, I guess I’d like to know what it feels like firsthand. Hmm. Now I have to think about that.


    Comment by Marja McGraw — May 23, 2012 @ 8:53 pm

  3. Oh, Mike. You are a wise man! The same thing happened to me, although I blamed it on personal problems rather than the award itself. Still, after I won the award I returned to that book to read it–this time as a reader. I scared myself because I thought, OMG! I will never do better than this.

    It’s taken me a year to get over that fear, and get over myself, and yes, get over that damn award!

    I’m back writing with no expectations, no desires to ever win another award. Like you, I just want to enjoy the journey.

    Thank you, Obi Wan Kenobi! ;-)

    Comment by Anne K. Albert — May 23, 2012 @ 8:53 pm

  4. Hi, Mike:

    You cleared up something that has had my nose out of joint since LCC-Monterey. I nominated a book for a Lefty and it never even made the list. Who knew it had to have 5 nominations? It really soured awards for me. But live and learn. Next time I’ll round up 4 other nominations for a book I think should be in contention.

    You do deserve your awards. The POT THIEF books stand out in a crowd. I love them!

    Your fan,

    Pat Browning

    Comment by Pat Browning — May 23, 2012 @ 9:51 pm

  5. I echo anything good anything anyone has ever said, is saying now, or will say about the Pot Thief mysteries. And Mike is one heck of a good guy–even if he did beat me out of an Eppie twice.

    Can hardly wait for the next book.


    Comment by Marilyn Meredith — May 23, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

  6. Hi Mike,

    When I read that you grew up in near the Rio Grande, you hooked me. And then you mentioned archaeology, humor, murder mysteries, and I wondered why it’s taken me so long to discover your books.
    I live in Washington state now, but I dream of southern border towns.

    Comment by Kathleen Kaska — May 23, 2012 @ 10:18 pm

  7. I’m a huge fan of the Pot Thief series. Mike Orenduff deserves to sell a million copies.

    But Mike, if you make “it,” all you have to do is come up with another “it,” or wait until the next one creeps up on you. The great thing about “made-it moments” is there is an infinite number of them.

    Comment by Jaden Terrell — May 23, 2012 @ 10:32 pm

  8. A different take on the subject, Mike, and one which provides a fascinating avenue of thought. I’m sorry to admit that I haven’t encountered your books yet, but they go on the list today. Thanks.


    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — May 24, 2012 @ 12:34 am

  9. The first award I won as a writer was “Writer of the Year” at a conference about half a century ago. My parents happened to be there and afterwards Daddy said, “Now you can quit working so hard.” I said, Oh, no. Now I have to work harder to live up to it.”
    Don’t worry. Mike, Escoffier lives up to it!

    Comment by Donna Fletcher Crow — May 24, 2012 @ 1:15 am

  10. HI Mike. That’s an interesting story and now that your afterglow has subsided, let’s keep those Pot Thief stories coming. Whether or not you receive an award (and I’m glad you did) you definitely have a winning series.

    Comment by Cindy Sample — May 24, 2012 @ 2:31 am

  11. Hi, Mike, most charming to read such a humble post. Again, goes to show that success or fulfilment comes when you expect it the least.

    Jenny, you seem to be a magnet for nice people. :-)

    Comment by Stella Deleuze — May 24, 2012 @ 7:41 am

  12. Looking forward to reading this one. Trying to catch up with new authors as I discover. You are a real wise guy. Thanks for interesting post.

    Comment by Jake — May 24, 2012 @ 9:20 am

  13. What a wonderful post. Now I know what to prepare for when I’m a winner. Looking forward to reading your series, Mike.

    Comment by Marilyn Levinson — May 24, 2012 @ 9:23 am

  14. Thanks Mike,
    When I was researching a book on playwriting, the head of the graduate program at NYU reminded me that you have to love the process and not the result. In fact, when I was a starving actor in New York all the Method teachers told me the bad actors were the ones who played the result instead of the moment. But, still and all, you need some validation to keep going. Some indication you’re reaching people.
    Shelly Frome
    Professor Emeritus, UConn

    Comment by shelly frome — May 24, 2012 @ 9:52 am

  15. Mike, Congrats on your momemnt and thank you for sharing! I believe that a writer’s moment, no matter how big or small, is a great triumph for them and the readers.

    Comment by Kellie — May 24, 2012 @ 10:07 am

  16. congrats! that’s fabulous. now quit flinging those tortillas.

    Comment by SavvyBlue — May 24, 2012 @ 10:57 am

  17. Great perspective! Glad you finally got back to writing. Your books are going on my wish list!

    Thanks for another wonderful moment, Jenny.

    Comment by mountainmama — May 24, 2012 @ 11:23 am

  18. Mike – Very intuitive post and I, too, have fallen victim to “coasting while basking” vs. starting on another book. And it’s so true that “made it moments” vary from author to author. Mine will be that – soon – I’ll have one of my works in paperback…no great shakes for some but, for me, a milestone. Could’ve accomplished this a long time ago but that’s another story unto itself.

    Anyway, best of luck to you…and, Jenny, another great one!

    Comment by Rebecca Stroud — May 24, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

  19. Mike, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. It’s made me think about the journey and get back to work. The whole award journey doesn’t take the place of my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard. Thanks for the great reminder.

    Jean :)

    Comment by Jean Willett — May 24, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

  20. Mike is not only a very funny writer, but he’s a really nice guy! Thanks for sharing more on Mike. He deserves all the best. “Break a Leg, Mike!”

    Comment by RP Dahlke — May 24, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

  21. Great post, Mike. Feet on the ground is the only way to be. Then when the awards come flying at you, you can remain upright.
    Love the Pot Thief Mysteries!

    Comment by Peg Herring — May 24, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

  22. Great moment — your Lefty was much deserved!

    Comment by Gigi Pandian — May 24, 2012 @ 7:39 pm

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