In the famous words of Sir Elton, it appears the bitch is back. And, sugar, she’s on fire!
Three years ago, hell three months ago if I’m being honest, if someone had asked me if I’d ever be back, the answer would have been invariably no. One could say I’d suffered one of the worst cases of burn-out in the history of burn-outs. There’s a long version of how I got to that point and a matter-of-fact short version. I can probably tell the short version in ten sentences or less.
At thirty-nine years old with the big four-zero looming, I decided I’d wasted enough time and went a little wonky attempting to achieve all my life’s goals in less than twelve months. (1) One of the life’s goals was seeing all the stories I’d squirreled away for years in print. (2) On my 41st birthday, I signed my first contract with a small press out of the great state of Tennessee and that same year I also signed contracts with two other small presses, one of which would be my publishing home of choice for the duration. (3) By my birthday the next year, I had about half a dozen titles under my belt, had left the first press, was working on regaining my rights from the second, and was not only publishing with the third but was also their Promotions Manager. (4) During this time my husband was deployed for 24 months consecutively and I had all the time in the world to devote to all things publishing. (5) I was staying up too late (all night in some cases), doing zero in the way of self-care, devoting hours upon hours to helping other writers in various ways, and ended up neglecting my own writing many days. (6) Between 2013 and 2016, we moved from the East Coast to the West Coast, I lost my grandmother to cancer, and had a cancer scare myself. (7) During that time, I abandoned my pen name, pulled back from most of the work I was doing for the publishing company, only put out three books, and learned to self-care so I could continue breathing. (8) In 2015, I thought I’d lost my muse forever as I’d not written a word in so long and it seemed the publishing world had completely lost its mind in scandal after scandal; small presses were closing up shop all over town, the bigger presses were for the first time in history swinging the doors wide open, and it seemed having that coveted contract was no longer a badge of honor as nearly everyone had one, let’s just be blunt, whether they could write or not. (9) I pulled all my titles from circulation, closed up shop at all the blogs I owned or participated in, turned off all my social media and author accounts spread across hell’s half measure, and went on sabbatical for three years. (10)
For three years, I didn’t write a word. That’s not to say my characters didn’t haunt me occasionally. They did. They were like white noise. A dull buzz always in the background, a tad annoying, but never loud enough that I could pinpoint the source. Life went on.
Last summer, we bought our retirement home here in the Smoky Mountains. It’s mere minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway. My husband was still active duty at the time, so while I moved in he stayed behind. Which is just the opposite of what we’ve done for 30 years. Normally he’s the one who is leaving and I’m the straggler. I spent several months painting and arranging, and rearranging. There’ve been upgrades since we purchased an older home. I’ve planted trees and had a veggie garden for the first time in I can’t remember when. I even have a few chickens.
Life is good in the mountains. It’s quiet and remote, but our little town has a few swank cafes and coffee houses uptown on Main Street. There are also book stores and a huge public library. It was while I wandered around uptown by myself while waiting my beloved to official be turned loose from servitude to the empire, treating myself to a latte or lunch at one of my favorite haunts that boasts outdoor seating, where I could do all the people watching I wanted, something wondrous happened. My muse began to whisper to me again. The white noise fell away and she was clear as one of the mountain streams rushing down these hills and vales. Then she turned up the volume. She all but screamed at me until I relented one afternoon and dragged out a manuscript I was about 60,000 words into when I laid it down and walked away. I dusted it off. I opened it. And I wrote! I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. That story is book one in a series I had plotted out three years ago and I can happily say is now finished. When I typed The End, I went back out into the world and looked around some more. I found myself playing the “what if” game. I started to wonder what their story was as passersby made their way down the sidewalk. The more I played the story starter games the more my muse chattered. Then I found myself seeking out others who have as many people living in their heads as I do. I looked high and low for book clubs or writers groups. Sadly, I’ve been unsuccessful, BUT the lack of local contacts has driven me back to NaNoWriMo for the first time in three years.
This is NaNo day 8 and it’s spinning up to be my best year yet. I’ve made a couple of new friends and buddies, and all this positivity has driven me to start thinking about what’s next. What’s next is very important because I can enthusiastically report I’m over 17,000 words into book two of that series I’ve had plotted out for so long. As far as I’m concerned, the sky is the limit this time. I learned so much during my first foray into the world of publishing and I learned quite a lot during my sabbatical. I ruminated over what worked, what didn’t, and what I still needed to figure out. And I intend to share the adventure here with all of you where I’ll be writing about lovin’ til hell freezes over, sugar!