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!)

So This is Life, Now

I just got off the phone with a lovely board member of one of the organizations that wanted an author panel, and they are so looking forward to our trio of authors speaking, she said, but it will be half-in-person, and half-virtual.

This is life, now.

I am glad there is no longer full-on virtual. That’s something, at least! It’s been a challenging year, and looks to be a challenging 2021 as well, but there are pockets of hope springing up here and there. My azaleas are blooming, I planted three camellias and a hydrangea this spring and they are thriving (good sign – they haven’t died), and folks are starting to breathe again. Well, as much breathing as you can do through a mask. These are coming off with regularity, though, I’ve noticed.

In spite of all this, my book, The Deadening, was released late February, and so far, I’ve had wonderful, five-star reviews and so much support I am blown away. People are loving my book! Isn’t it funny that authors tend to think they can’t write a darn thing anyone will want to read, and when they do, they are surprised. It’s true. We’re all like that.

To my delight, my local Barnes&Noble decided to carry the book, so all those folks who would really rather buy their books at a bookstore now have that option. Hilton Head Island’s full-time residents mourned when the B&N closed for COVID, and rejoiced when it opened, me included.

The forever stamp on our citizens of this twilight zone existence we’ve endured for almost 15 months will be a legacy of half-virtual mixed with half-in-person. Can’t you just see it? Mom ‘n Pops have closed all over the country, and many employers realized that ZOOM and other meeting apps make showing up to the workplace obsolete. Professional casual is now ‘professional above the waist only’ thanks to technology. (Just don’t get out of your seat).

It has become routine to see my husband in a dress shirt above the waist, and sweat pants below as he’s rushing to another virtual meeting. I wonder how this has affected our shopping? Amazon has seen the biggest boom ever, but copycats are springing up, and they have significant competition now. Already I’m a more zealous virtual shopper, but I get desperate for some human interaction and in a fit of virtual-shopping rebellion, I dash out the door for groceries, but I’m resentful that I have to throw on more presentable clothing and put on makeup. This virtual thing has made me less willing to get all dolled up. For anything.

Half-virtual, half-in-person. This is life, now.

As human beings, we are made to enjoy and fluorish in relationships. No matter what anybody tries to tell me, I’m better when I’m relating to people…in person. I don’t want to learn to do life with a half-virtual mindset. But that’s just me. In the meantime, I’m enjoying awesome reviews like this one in spite of the bizarre alien atmosphere that has become our society:

“Woohoo!!!! This book blew me away! You know when you read a book and it is soo good that every book you read for the next few months just can’t compare… yeah – this was that book for me!

OK I have to admit, I have a thing for books about memory loss. I have no idea why?? Maybe in a previous lifetime I had amnesia? This one was done so well. The parts when she started to remember things, it just felt so real.

Excellent character development! I loved Olivia. I thought her character was spot on and very believable. The beginning of this book!! Oh my gosh, I was totally riveted! I could not tear myself away, even with tears flowing down my face! I don’t want to give away the story but… when she goes home to be with her mom and daughters even though she can’t remember who they are! 😒 Heartbreaking! I also loved her mom and the daughters. I thought they were great through the whole thing.

Perfect ending that will blow your mind!

Wait… The first in a series??!! Sign me up for more! Can’t wait to read more by this “new to me” author!

β€œThe Deadening” all snuggled up beside other local Lowcountry authors. 🌴😎

Other interesting things have happened in the absence of in-person launch events…I’ve been forced to discover new technology. This is my absolute favorite:

Click here for a surprise!

See? This is called a Link Tree for obvious reasons, and disposes of the sad task of posting separate links for every, single site I am attached to. These kinds of discoveries are one of the primary purposes of adult children – to educate Mom and Dad about astute and useful advances in technology.

😌😌😌😌😌😌😌😌😌😌😌😌😌😌😌

In spite of the virtual, my book seems to be fluorishing, and my sequel as well. I’m 35,000 words in, just sent it off to my wonderful, patient editor for her comments, and life is good. I have a #PartnersinCrimeVBT blog tour in progress – shout out to Cheryl Mash – three more major events scheduled to acquaint readers with “The Deadening,” and another 45,000-50,000 words to get down. Plus, I have the great unmasking to look forward to.

Re-learning how to meet in person and dress like I am civilized is going to be a challenge – but I’m equal to the task.

Onward. Through the fog!

Boom! It’s 2021 and Crazy Town

HI there and welcome to Crazy Town. At least that’s where I am right now. So busy I don’t have much time to bemoan our political landscape or wring my hands about the COVID virus, and thank God because if that was all I thought about I’d be in bed most days.

I’m in the midst of releasing a book with an energetic and forward-thinking publisher and it’s a LOT! Since my background is advertising sales, copywriting, and marketing, I have to do it to the utmost, which takes a lot of time and patience. Neither of which I have, but we do what must be done, don’t we? Yes. Most of the time, anyway.

So while whittling away at a press release, preparing for yet another ZOOM call with my author launch team, biting my fingernails calling potential virtual event venues for our “Truth and Lies in Mysteries” tour, I had a moment of panic when I realized I hadn’t updated my website and a lot of folks (a lot) were going to check it out now and I’d better have something current. It’s even on my publisher’s information sheet, ‘how many times do you update your website a month?’ and I got a little red-faced at that question. So…welcome to my world for the next few weeks, and in the middle of that, my publisher offered me another contract! For Book Two and Book Three of the Olivia Callahan Suspense Series. Book One of which (The Deadening) releases next month, and is available for pre-order now.

My mind is spinning with how much there is to do after a mainly puttering-along writing life, and it is now full systems go and I have two more books to write starting, well, now. It is a happy time and a busy time and I am over-the-moon grateful for a blessing in the midst of a fiercely alienating landscape, a horrid disease, and the pervasive loneliness that hatched in 2020. Thanks to my writing addiction, I now have an instant group of encouragers and ZOOM meetings at every turn.

Into the vast Unknown…

Tip-toeing into 2021, I’m cautiously optimistic that we may see some light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s certainly nice to have a bunch of activity going on. It is WAY too easy to slide down the tunnel of regret and take the highway of discontent right now. (Dumb metaphors, I know, I know). So for now, I’m happily engaging in phone calls to potential virtual events or future signing events when the great unmasking occurs (being positive, here), I’m delighting in the lively wit of other authors and the sharing of promotional ideas. I’m excited about the fact that my editor believes in and supports my books and that I’m building a fan base (I love you guys).

Not watching news. Just no. For a while.

I’m stepping away from 24/7 news, which has had me glued to my phone. If 2020 has taught us one thing, it’s that we cannot believe the media. We must do research and find out for ourselves, and even that may not be exactly right, so…we just need to live our lives. Pursue that wonderful thing that God made us to do. Believe that better, more hopeful days are ahead. (Preachin’ to myself here, too.) Stay busy. Find something we love and do it. Persevere. Stay ahead of depression. Go visit someone with a three-year old, it will totally change your outlook for the better. Promise.

In the meantime, I think I’ll keep writing.

Happy New Year, everyone!