Bumpy Roads

Summer 2022 is almost here, and I didn’t know, back in the quiet, rain-drenched, fall…that a bumpy road was ahead!

Thus far, my writing journey has taken a back seat to nail-biting. For starters, the second book in the series, The Rising, was two entire weeks late (forever in launch terms) due to Amazon holding it up. And as a nice caveat, they wouldn’t tell my publisher WHY it was held up. Censoring? Supply chain issues? This was a head-scratcher. Next, my order of my own personal stash of books has been delayed, another mystery. Without a stash of books, I cannot do as many author events. I have Book One, but people are gnashing their teeth to get Book Two, and so far…nothing has shown up at my front door! Shipping problems? Who knows. All I know is…tomorrow I have a very cool event in Port Royal, SC, with 40 vendors, and I have plenty of The Deadening, but only three advance review copies of The Rising which I will sell at a discount, because the only thing different about an ARC is a cover that has not been finalized. I am holding out hope that a box of fresh-off-the-press copies of The Rising will appear on my doorstep before tomorrow! In the meantime, the fabulous bookstore owners where my events are held this summer are being nice enough to order the books for me. My stash will show up sooner or later.

But that’s just the beginning of the bumpy road…

My daughter’s family came to visit over the Easter weekend, and I was SO delighted because I hadn’t seen them in a while…and the night they arrived, I had a severe vertigo attack at 3AM. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with this condition, but ohmigosh, I’ve never endured such a thing. Hellish torment are the words that come to mind. I couldn’t get out of bed for a couple of days, and when I did, the whole world spun around me, even though it really wasn’t spinning. I could only sleep in one position: on my back as still and straight as a board. A friend suggested the Epley Maneuver…which I pooh-poohed because I tried it myself and thought I was going to die right there on the spot. However, after six days of spinning crazily I relented and went to a chiropractor. Poof. All better. After three treatments, I am back among the living. But wow. Just…wow. I don’t know if I have ever felt that helpless in my life. SO humbling, how finite and ethereal our health is.

After two weeks of dealing with vertigo, I’m in a mental state of limbo. I’ve tried to let go of expectations, because…let’s face it. Aren’t they usually way too ambitious? Being flat on my back and unable to lift a finger has given me an interesting perspective. I’ve returned to being grateful for the small, uninteresting, non-intimidating things, like standing up without my head exploding. Or turning my head to see something without my eyes rolling around in my head like marbles. Kneeling down and picking up a stray bit of debris on the floor without becoming so dizzy I fall over. Things like that make my day now. Doing laundry or fixing dinner is rather miraculous, too.

Isn’t it funny how the unexpected twists in life help us understand how finite and transitory we are? I don’t mean to get all philosophical or anything, but these issues – and we all have our own unique bumpy roads – can’t help but reset us. Our expectations. Our priorities. Our commitments. Our relationships.

I know that I will get back to normal, and the irritating barnacles of life will start calcifying my outlook again. But I certainly hope…that when I think about the helplessness and panic I endured for two weeks…that I will peel off those barnacles sooner than later.

Now.

Where are those darn books?

The Gift That Keeps Giving

My oldest daughter Bonnie, gifted me a Storyworth book in the spring of 2021, which is a series of questions picked out by my grown kids that is turned into a book after a year’s worth of weekly questions. This book will be given to myself, and my four kids, and it is a wonderful, thoughtful, gift.

Little did I know how much of my past this exercise would dredge up – both good and bad. And little did she know it would pull out some interesting conversations between us all. But it’s also been a very cool journey…a way of reminding me how far I’ve come, and maybe bringing to mind issues that even now need to be addressed. It’s crazy though, that since I’m a writer, I can’t just jot an answer down and let it go. My daughter asked recently about how many I’d completed, and I had to admit I hadn’t done it every week as the questions came, I kind of picked the ones I thought would be more interesting and worked on those, but also…I have to edit and ponder these answers. Then find pictures to go along with them. Perhaps go back and edit again. It takes me a while, for sure!

My daughter rolled her eyes and laughed. But as I think about this, and that maybe I should be more quick about it, I realize that for many of these questions there IS no short response. These are major life events we’re talking about that happened maybe thirty or forty years ago, and they aren’t simple to remember, or to unpack now. Once this book is published, it’s out for perpetuity, right? In the hands of my kids and passed down for generations. It is definitely a daunting prospect and I don’t want to be cavalier about it, and I DO want to be truthful, which has caused a few raised eyebrows and objections from my kids.

And there it is. Now I have to think about the weighty subject of ‘how much of the truth is really necessary to share’ and ‘where IS the truth and does it really matter?’ and all that. Big sigh. Nope I can’t just jot down a memory and let it go, because all of it had and still has meaning and heft and motivations and consequences. I must turn it over, examine it, and mold it into some kind of life lesson.

Much to my kids’ everlasting despair.

I have to admit, I find the whole process very entertaining.

Final Stages

As I finish up Book Two in the Olivia Callahan Suspense series, I’m thinking about what a huge effort it is to take a story from idea to the advance review copy (ARC) stage. I don’t know about other authors, but I’m so sick of my manuscript by the time I’ve written the story, edited it myself and rewritten the story; recruited betas to read it so I can get input from fresh eyes and perspectives, make the changes suggested, look over it again, format the darn thing in a suitable condition for my editor to start a developmental edit…and after that edit, THEN it goes to copyedits and another round of corrections. In between all that, I try to stay current on social media, schedule author events, and submit cover ideas to my publisher that they will then turn over to the artist. A friend of mine asks if after my book is published, will I read it and regret changing some things, or regret ending it a certain way?

I had to laugh. Heck, no, I don’t read my books after they’re finished. It’s too late to do anything about changing things at that point, and truly, I don’t want to lose myself in the story again, I want to write a new one! Besides, after I’ve taken a breath, and looked back on that the journey of that book, I think about how much further I’ve come as a writer, and the progress that occurs at every stage.

The final stage of a book is bittersweet. After all the blood, sweat, and tears…the critiques and changes and hours spent editing…it’s hard to let go of it. I feel the same way about jobs I’ve had, or bitter debates with relatives or spouses over details that in the long run, matter not one bit. Even the Bible states very clearly that ‘things come to pass’, and that there are seasons for things. Right now I’m in the ‘final stage’ season of my book. Relief is right around the corner, and soon I’m going to let go of it, and schedule a break before I start another one.

So my question is, why get so worked up about stuff? Why do we waste our days this way? It all counts. It all teaches us important lessons. And every experience we have eventually culminates in one, big, fat, final stage. And even then, if you believe in Christ, there’s an eternal stage after the final-final-final stage that sounds pretty awesome.

My daughter’s father and I haven’t been together for more than thirty years, so the final stages of that marriage happened decades ago. She called me with the sad news that her dad was in ICU, with maybe six weeks of life left, and she is in his hospital room, trying to help and support, even as I type this. A final-final-final stage is happening for her dad, and she’s making sure he knows that he counted. For him. For her. This is the important thing…that each final stage hopefully makes a positive change in us and others. She is holding his hand and being there for him to let him know…that his final stage…counts.

In the current climate of 2021, amidst all the fear, worry, anger, and posturing…I don’t care if we vax or un-vax, protest or complain about the protests, cling to socialism or cling to capitalism. Sure, I have my preferences, but in the huge scheme of things, it’s all headed to a final stage, anyway. If I get involved, one way or the other, I should be kind. If I disagree with someone, I should respect their choice. If I get upset over a reaction, or government mandate, I should pray, and act accordingly. Above all, I should not waste my short seasons of life with worry, hate, fear, or inappropriate reactions because of someone else’s choices that have nothing to do with mine. Sinking into the abyss of hatred or judgment robs us of joy.

I’m not letting anyone steal one minute of my joy. Venting and complaining and pouting about something is a complete waste of time, and not worth it. (Not that I’m successful in keeping these things at bay all the time, but I DO know life is better without them!)

I can’t even believe the crazy back-and-forth happening on FB, and the nasty, hateful comments. How do these people even have time to sit there and monitor and answer comments all day long? Isn’t there more to life, people?

During every stage, I’m putting joy at the top of my emotional stack, and hatred and judgment at the bottom. Think about it. The final three letters of ‘enjoy’ are ‘joy’. Let’s get out there and roll around in it.

(Hint: it helps to limit time on social media!)