To say the last six months have been a whirlwind would be an understatement. I imagine most of us feel that way with the frustrations and tragedies of COVID-19, but we push on none-the-less, another year of experience under our belts. I admit, I got lost in it all for a while, the statistics of infected/dead and the all the politics that accompanied them, and that isn’t to say that keeping informed on the subject is a bad thing but when you lose yourself to it, well that isn’t really a place you want or should be. But I do owe COVID one thing, one positive outcome I can claim. I started writing again, something I hadn’t really done in a long time. And maybe I would have done it anyway, I’ll never know, but I did and that’s what matters.

You see, as I found myself caught up in (the world you could say) and I wanted an outlet, a distraction. It had been years since a wrote much of anything, and that, at beast, was rather lack luster, falling flat before I made it past the first handful of chapters. I was in a writing rut, or what we like to call writer’s block. For those who have experienced it, you know how difficult it can be to get out of it. Quite frankly, I stopped trying after a while. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my skill as a writer anyway, so it didn’t seem like much of a loss. I did, however, miss it on occasion, and just because the writing stopped didn’t mean my brain had. I have, what I like to call, an overactive imagine, sometimes to the point that it drives me crazy, keeps me up all hours of the night. The wheels are always spinning in there it seems.

And so, I had this idea. You know, the kind that won’t leave you alone, pesters you until you cave. That kind. It started simple, as they always do, slowly forming into a complete, somewhat coherent story and progressing until I could vividly see the details in my mind like a movie playing on constant repeat. If you have kids, you understand this. I know I’m not the only one who has seen frozen half a billion times and know all the words to Let It Go by heart. This is the same way, the same scenes in my head over and over again, occasionally offering different endings or dialog, as if my mind is exploring alternate realities for characters that are only figments of my imagination.

This goes on for a year or so, I didn’t really keep track. But it was long enough that when COVID hit and July rolled around I was ready for it. The best word I could use to describe it was inspiration. Maybe that sounds cheesy, but sometimes you have to call it what it is. Sometimes we find or do exactly what we need when we need it. You can call it whatever you want: a higher power, fate, maybe just some subconscious part of ourselves. Regardless, writing came back to me… or, at least, I wanted it too.

It wasn’t like I picked up a pencil and the words just spilled perfectly onto paper. That would be really nice. No, instead it was slow, the same I still have writer’s block slow. I was more just “dabbling” with ideas than anything, not assuming or planning anything to actually come from it. A distraction, as I said and a good one too. That first chapter took weeks. I read. And read. And re-read. Probably a hundred times until I was sick of it. I didn’t like it. It sounded stupid. So naturally I kept going, because that’s what writer’s do.

I can’t remember how much of the second chapter was complete when my husband read the first. He sort of found it on the dresser, reading through it with what I’m guessing was just curiosity. I can remember exactly what he said, though. Well, that’s better than your last one. This was in reference to the lackluster story I’d started several years ago. It wasn’t his favorite.

Well, maybe this one is worth pursuing, I thought. So, I kept going. The first month was hard. I only wrote a handful of chapters, but the rhythm was coming back. At this point I start researching writing tips and the dos/don’ts of the publishing world. By now the hubby is all for publishing. (I’m still…unsure.) Let me tell you, I had no idea what I was doing. There are so many rules. You know, those dumb ones you learn in high school English that you think you’ll never use. Those.

By September I’ve written more than I ever have with a single story line. I can tell my writing is getting better. (It started out a huge mess, believe me, embarrassingly a huge mess). I learned how to “dialog” properly and refreshed on comma usage and Italics and…more, so much more. I wished I’d taken some sort of creative writing class in college.

Now the idea of publishing is looking…realistic? Maybe that’s not the right word. I mean, I’d always wanted to publish a book, been on the bucket list since I was a kid, but doing it? I still wasn’t sure my writing was up to par to sell…for like actual money. Newsflash: I still don’t know or think it is sometimes. But I do hope so.

I began researching. If you’ve never looked into publishing, let me give you the simple breakdown. First, you have two routes: self publishing or traditional. Traditional is where you get a publisher and they take care of basically everything from editing to cover art. There’s really no upfront costs to the author, so it’s appealing, not to mention publishers know how to get your work out there. Connections, so to speak.

Self publishing is, well, self explanatory really. You do all the work. You hire the editor. You hire a cover artist. Formatting. All of it. For someone who has no idea how the publishing world works, this is overwhelming. But there are benefits. More control. Higher commissions. And, you don’t have to wait for someone to say, this is great, let’s sign a contract. You are in charge. You decide when and how your story will be published.

As most of you know by now, I chose the latter. It wasn’t an easy decision. I’m still uncertain it was the right one. But I’m not a patient person, so waiting for an agent and then on a publisher was more than I wanted to deal with. I also like being in control of my work. The hubby agreed (with reluctance at first) to do the cover. He’s a great artist, and I’m very fortunate to have him (in so many ways). So, the pieces began to come together. I spent hours learning how and what to do. You’d think writing the book would be the hard part. That’s a long sounding, no! That is the easy part. Believe me. There are so many little aspects to publishing that as a reader you never think about. I researched it all: buying barcodes, copywriting, editing, formatting. The list could go on forever and I still don’t know what I’m doing, by the way.

I finished the book. Phew! But no, it’s only beginning. I find a wonderful freelance editor to work with. Highly recommend her. (Sara Kelly on Reedsy, in case you’re wondering) She was prompt, patient, and kind. She begins editing and I get more anxious by the day. I was terrified. I mean this literally. Letting someone else read 94k words that came out of your head is scary. You see, until that point very few people had read my work (and I appreciate each and every one of them) They gave me the support I needed to finish, to continue. But letting people you know and trust is one thing, a stranger is another. Until then the movie in my head had only been viewed by a few trusted people. Now it was out. It was on paper. It was in someone else’s hands.

I looked nervously for my emails from Sara (She sent them every two weeks). They were always great. She let me know what I was doing well, and also what her focus was in correcting my mistakes. I imagined getting the document back and it being covered in bright red markings. I honestly thought the whole thing would look like someone had sacrificed a cow to the writing Gods while reading my manuscript. So, I tried to keep myself occupied with other things while I waited. Insert Book 2.

I had never planned to write a book this year and if you would have told me I would finish two, I would have died of laughter. Yet, somehow in the craziness of 2020 I did just that. My story started out with a simple idea, a small novel. That changed over the course of writing Book 1 as the ideas and plot grew more complex. This is, in part, the result of four people. The first was my hubby, who insisted I keep going. Write a second, he would say. I shrugged it off for a while but you know what happens when ideas like that fester. Books 2 and 3 were born. The plots still sketchy at best but they were there.

I also had two great beta readers. I call them my Royal Advisors (you know who you are!). Talking to them only made the wheels turn more. The result was more than three books could handle. I began outlining. Within about two weeks I had the outlines for a total of seven books (including the first) completed. Strange how such a simple idea can turn into more than you bargain for.

Still waiting for the editing, I turn to Book 2, thinking I’ll get started to pass the time. Somehow my brain goes into overdrive. Book 2 is complete a few days before book 1 edits are returned. So, in less than six months I had written two complete books. I still can’t believe. I still don’t know how it happened.

I received the edits on Dec 16th. I cried reading through the comments from Sara, some clarifying technicalities, others telling me how good of a job I did on certain parts. I never expected how happy that document would make me feel. Oh, and it wasn’t nearly as red (actually it was blue) as I thought it would be.

The Holidays are fast approaching, but there is no time to rest for me. I’m fixing the last few things, formatting, and getting ready to upload the book so it can be sold. I start with Amazon and it’s a breeze. Literally, not one single issue. Que Barnes & Noble. Barnes has been the bane of my existence for the last two weeks. Everything that could go wrong probably has. Not to mention they are as picky as my children eating dinner. I still haven’t 100% worked it all out, still waiting for them to “approve” the paperback. I think I sent them the manuscript and metadata 10 times, maybe more.

So many little things go into this process. You learn things you didn’t know you needed to know. For instance, did you know that Times New Roman font can’t be embedded? Don’t know what that means, yeah neither did I….but I do now! Did you know it’s cheaper to buy 100 ISBNs than to buy say 20? Weird right? I think somebody somewhere is making a killing off of random numbers generated by a computer, but hey what do I know. Did you know Amazon charges a “delivery fee” for eBooks? Did you know you can’t put song lyrics in your manuscript without permission or paying royalties? Oh, but titles of songs and books can’t be copyrighted.

I could go on, but it’s really not that entertaining. Today I reflect back on where I was in July to where I am now. I’ve come a long way as a writer, but as a person too I think. Book 1, The Witch of Selvenor, is scheduled for release on January 11th. I’m excited, and hopeful. I hope it lives up to the expectation of all those who have supported me the last few months. I hope the story entertains and I hope it takes someone on a journey. After all, that’s what books are made to do, and they do it for the author just as much as they do for the reader, often in more ways than one.