Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Happiest of Thanksgivings

Eventually, I'd like to blog once a week, but I sure am off to a slow start with that goal!

It's been a while since my last update, but life has been packed since school began. Our sons are football players, and our daughters are cheerleaders, so fall is just a smidge exhausting. Add to that my teaching schedule and a huge party I've spent a couple months planning, and my spare time is pretty limited.

A couple of weeks ago, I completed the line edits on Dying to Remember, and I've been working on a proposal, which I hope to submit by the end of this month. Originally, I'd planned to submit in October, but things got a little hairy around here.

Slowly, however, activities are dying down. Our oldest just finished his first season of high school football. Our second son played his last 7th grade football game last night. The girls cheered in their last game before play-offs on Saturday, and Sunday they performed at the Cheer-Off competition. Despite all the craziness and my own sheer exhaustion, it's been a great fall so far. 

Friday was the one-year anniversary of when Aaliyah's tumor was discovered,  but instead of mourning over the day, we celebrated how far we've come. If you want the details of Aaliyah's surprise party, hop over to her Caring Bridge page; I posted a standing link on the right side of my home page.

So, what now?

As obligations drop away, I'm toying with a new writing schedule for myself. I have several types of projects I'd like to work on, but I know I need to set some realistic goals and start ticking them off, or I'm at risk for getting caught back in the procrastination-and-fear-of-failure cycle. I'll try to check back here at the end of the month to update my progress.

In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving. Last Thanksgiving, we were released from the hospital after having spent 14 days straight there. We got to spend most of the day together as a family until Aaliyah struck another fever, and we had to go back to the hospital, where we were admitted for almost another full week. It was the worst November in history - and Thanksgiving has since taken on a whole new meaning for our family. May you always remember that time is a gift.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Titles & Art Facts Sheets

I've completed two more steps in the publishing process.

First, the official title was chosen last week:

Dying to Remember

I love it! My heroine struggles with bouts of amnesia and brain fog, making her a vulnerable target for the protagonist - hence, the very appropriate title. :)

Second, I completed the Art Facts Sheet.

The Art Facts Sheet (AFS) is kind of fun to complete, minus writing a 300- to 500-word synopsis. :) The book cover is designed using descriptions and facts recorded in the AFS. Here, authors get to scour the Internet for photos of people who resemble our characters, places that look like our settings, and other important visual clues that may be important to our scenes. Authors describe three possible scenes for the book cover - the mood, the time of day, the season, the weather, and even the clothing the characters are wearing. 

The cover for my first book didn't really resemble any of the scenes I suggested, so I'm curious to see what will happen with this one. 

Next up on my list of things to do: Complete the revisions on this manuscript, due August 24.

Things just got crazy around here, though! I decided to pick up a second class teaching at the community college. Unlike last year when I taught two identical courses, this year I'm teaching two different ones - and on two different campuses. I'm excited to expand my knowledge base, but a little overwhelmed with the short time frame I have to familiarize myself with two new textbooks, create two new syllabi, and plan out the semester for two separate courses.

At the same time, I'm just excited to be jumping back into life. Aaliyah only has two treatments left, and we are all hoping life will start feeling a bit more normal over the next month or so. Well, "normal" might be pushing it. I'll settle for "even-keeled" or "somewhat uneventful." :O)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Contract & What's Next

Several weeks ago I realized I had enough airline points to snag a free trip to visit my family in Maryland. The timing was sketchy - my husband would have to take off work, our daughter may or may not be in the hospital, high school football was starting, and cheer season was getting underway...but I had been desperately missing my family and just as desperately craving a small break from all that this year has heaped on our family.

My hubby encouraged me to go, so Saturday evening, I boarded that free flight.

Four hours before boarding? I popped my signed Harlequin contract in the mail. 

The first contract I signed was exciting, three long years ago. It was also a total shock, following entering a contest on a whim.

The second contract was so much more.  It was relief. It was hope. It was a gift.

And now, it's crunch time. Yesterday, I submitted a list of title ideas. Next week, I'll get the Art Facts Sheet in. And revisions are due the 24th. 

The last time I experienced this whirlwind publishing process, I was consumed by fear and self-doubt. This time, I'm having a blast.  

One truth I've begun to more fully grasp this year is that fear steals joy, self-doubt limits opportunity, and sometimes you've got to fail before you succeed. 

Oh, and by the way, my trip back home was the best it could be, and even more amazing than signing my second book contract. Staying at my parents' house is like staying at a super comfy, quiet, and beautiful bed & breakfast - only better, because I'm surrounded by family and comfort food. Nothing beats face-to-face time with my people.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Call

Well, courage over fear paid off, and the third time really was the charm! As I said previously, I have been in a waiting period following the submission of a third manuscript to my editor at Harlequin's Love Inspired Suspense.

Determined not to lose time waiting like I have in the past, I busied myself by madly working on rewriting the formerly rejected manuscript. The distraction only lasted so long, however. Once I hit the 8-week mark since submission, I began to grow antsy. All my kids knew I was waiting for news. They knew that we were down to the wire, and that within four weeks I would finally make my second sale...or receive my third consecutive rejection.

I had told them how an e-mail from my editor would be bad news, but that a phone call would be good, so if the phone rang and the caller ID was from Harlequin in New York, they were to come running to me with the phone at all cost.

For days, I checked the caller ID with hope every time the phone rang, and winced with dread every time I opened my e-mail.

Then, as things go, I stopped thinking about the whole drama for a day.

Monday, July 24, was a day for summer fun. The previous week, Aaliyah and I had spent five unexpected days in the hospital due to a neutropenic fever and her practically nonexistent white blood cells, hemoglobin, and platelets. And, while we were trapped in the hospital, the other three kids spent several summer days trapped at home.

On Monday, everyone was feeling good. And I mean, everyone - even my husband, who was finally turning a corner after four weeks of poor health. I knew that the very next day, Aaliyah and I would check into the hospital once again, for another five days, but this time for chemo. So I told the kids we were just going to seize the day and splurge on some summer fun.

The boys had sports and conditioning camp in the morning, so as soon as they were done, we stuffed our faces at Smashburger, which was a rare treat since we could buy double the meals at a fast food joint for the same price. Then we were off to meet friends for froyo, where we were blessed with a gift card that brought the total cost of several pounds of ice cream and toppings to just a little over $4. Everyone was on quite a happy sugar high when we headed to the bowling alley.

There's a lot of construction on the main highway here, and I'm not sure if I missed our exit or if it had been blocked off, but we wound up driving several miles out of our way and pulling a U-turn to circle back. We ended up in a long line of traffic on a feeder road, and my sugar high was starting to wane.

Then, in the console next to me, my cell phone rang. It was faced away from me so I wouldn't be tempted to read texts, but my son Kai - sitting in the passenger seat - said it was from New York. Lately, mind you, I have been picking up random telemarketing calls on my cell phone simply to ask to be taken off call lists, and I figured this was one of those. I rolled my eyes and said, "Let's see who's calling from New York."

Kai said, "Maybe it's HER."

I laughed and answered the phone, fully expecting a telemarketer, but with a tiny hope that my son was right.

When Shana said hello, we were still sitting in traffic, and I turned to all the kids with huge eyes and a matching smile and mouthed, "It's HER!"

They all commenced silent shrieking.

Traffic, of course, started moving then, so I had to put Shana on speaker phone, and when she told me she wanted to give me an offer for my book, the kids were silent no longer. Sharing that moment with them made the news all the sweeter. Upon ending the phone call, my crew shouted a chorus of goodbyes, and we proceeded to the bowling alley, where I played two of the happiest, most distracted, and lowest scoring games of my life.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Courage Over Fear

Today I e-mailed my latest manuscript to my editor. And, oddly, I don't feel very anxious at all. Nevermind that this is now the third manuscript I've sent since Harlequin bought and published my first and only book so far. Nevermind that I could really use the extra cash in the face of braces, trumpets, trombones, medical bills, car repairs, and the Christmas trip I want to take to see family this year. Nevermind that writing feels so personal, and rejection feels extremely awful.

I pressed send and then pulled up the project worksheet I created a couple months ago, because I have goals. I may or may not achieve those goals, but fear is certainly not going to slow me down or stop me from trying anymore.

Fear has been present in my life since a very early age. When I was somewhere around six or seven years old, I went through a phase where I was afraid the house would burn down and our whole family would die. I would often work myself into tears at night and seek reassurance from my parents that our house was not going to burn down while we were sleeping. When I was around 10, I entered a very long fear-of-death phase. The youngest of five kids in a close-knit family, I reasoned that I would be the last to die, and one day I would be all alone without a soul in the world. Then I started imaging heaven, and I worried that God would get tired of heaven and the whole eternity idea and wipe everything out to start fresh. I would pace my room at night, beside myself and unable to sleep.

It was at age 10 that I also fell in love with writing and the piano, two outlets that have helped me process and cope with stress and grief and even anxiety. But then, I battled fear over sharing those gifts and exposing myself to judgement. Writing is personal. Music is personal. Exposure is scary.

As a teenager, I performed in many piano festivals and competitions, but in front of an audience I could never duplicate the way I played alone at home. All because of fear. My fear of making mistakes, forgetting my music, embarrassing myself....actually caused me to make more mistakes than usual, forget music I had spent months memorizing, and come face-to-face with public embarrassment. The older I got, the more nervous about performing I became. Even as adult, I have struggled.

And so, it has also been with my writing. I procrastinate because of fear. I erase deeply personal thoughts and revelations out of fear. I start new stories and tuck them away out of fear.

I could write an entire book detailing every fear I've ever had - the rational, the irrational, and the downright absurd. When I was 12, for example, my mom brought my brother and me on a trip to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon and visit our grandfather. I was convinced our plane was going to crash, and I wrote a goodbye letter in my diary and cried myself to sleep.

I have always known that fear was a problem for me, but I chalked it up to my personality. I'm a worrier - what can ya' do?

Then our daughter got sick. And you know what? In the face of watching my child fight cancer, nothing else seemed scary anymore, in comparison.

So, I will write and submit, and weather the inevitable rejections, and hope for some fun successes, because my daughter has taught me to choose courage over fear. And God has reminded me time and again over the past few months that everywhere I go in this life, every step I take - He has gone before me. And His perfect love drowns out fear.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Thousand Hours

I decided it was time to resurrect this neglected Web site. It's pretty bare right now, but I plan to add content over the next several weeks. For anyone who happens to stumble by looking for an update on my writing: I'm still plugging away!

Last year I submitted and resubmitted a manuscript to my editor, but it just wasn't working. I set the idea aside in the spring and started a new project that I love. Its completion was slower than I wanted because I picked up a part-time job teaching English at our local community college in the fall. But I managed to complete the first draft of the manuscript by October. My goal was to finish revisions and submit the manuscript by the end of November. 

On November 14, however, our daughter Aaliyah was diagnosed with cancer. (I'm sure I'll have plenty to say on that topic in the coming months, but if you'd like to keep up with her story, you can drop in at her CaringBridge page.) Our entire world shifted that day, and it's taken quite a while to find our bearings again.

I've spent nearly 1,000 hours at the hospital in the past three months, and that is not an exaggeration. I calculated the exact number to be around 968 hours - encompassing her initial emergency hospitalization that took us all the way through the end of November (minus one day at home on Thanksgiving), her biweekly inpatient chemo treatments, her regular lab draws and clinic appointments, and last week's major surgery. 

1,000 hours. And that's not including all the hours in the car. 

That's a lot of thinking time right there, ya'll. (And a lot of praying time and crying time and waiting time.) And every writer knows what happens when you find yourself with an abundance of thinking-praying-crying-waiting time: you start itching to get writing again. 

I'm thinking it's time to scratch that itch. Let the writing begin.