I was going to put a ridiculously entertaining gif at the start of this post, but alas ... blogger has decided not to cooperate. And we all know that technology and I rarely get along, so when I tried to fix it ... CHAOS. ANARCHY. THE NEAR DESTRUCTION OF THE ENTIRE INTERNET.
Imagine an entertaining gif HERE.
This actually might be a long-ish post. I'm not exactly sure how much of last year I want to share, so then again ... it might not. :) Truthfully, I wasn't even going to do a 2012 Recap post, but I figured my blog followers and new readers deserve to know a little bit about why I basically disappeared off the face of the internet, and maybe a little bit about what to expect in 2013.
Here's the thing. 2012 was one of the hardest years I've been through in a very long time. It was one of the best. And one of the most heartbreaking. It was one of the most incredible. And one of the most stressful. And all of that combined to slap this introvert straight in the face with a big, fat "I can't deal with human interaction at ALL because I can't afford to give away one more piece of me, or I'll have nothing left."
I hope when I say that, when I tell you that I pulled back from blogging and Facebook and Twitter, you don't think I mean I felt like people had their hands out trying to take a piece of me. That's not accurate at all. What I mean is this: being an introvert doesn't mean you don't like people or that you aren't outgoing. It means that every interaction you have takes emotional energy from you. For extroverts, interacting with other people gives emotional energy. When you take an introvert with a ton of stress in her personal life and add in the fact that her job requires her to find large chunks of quiet time in which to be creative, you have a recipe for abandoning the internet.
My emotional energy in 2012 started out pretty strong. I'd sold a trilogy in 2011, and my first book was coming out in August of 2012! I was excited about that, focused on writing the sequel, and trying to figure out how to do effective online promotion without becoming annoying.
In February, we did the cover reveal for Defiance. I expected a bunch of people to be interested. And by "bunch," I mean ... maybe 200. A little piece of my followers from Twitter, my blog, and Facebook. And also my mother and my best friends. I had no idea how many people would respond to Harper's amazing cover, and I was totally unprepared for the sudden focus of people's attention.
I've been told this is the kind of stuff writers just shouldn't blog about because we'll sound ungrateful for our dreams coming true. Or we'll sound stuck up because we felt the effects of the publicity our publishing houses generated for our books. I understand that fear, but I'm hoping my readers know me well enough by now to know that this isn't pride talking. I'm not the one who created my amazing cover--all of the credit goes to Harper's incredible art department. And if writers suddenly shut up about the publishing process once we've crossed the threshold to "sold," we do a huge disservice to up and coming writers. Because let me tell you, crossing that threshold is amazing and lovely. It is also scary. And with it comes a whole new level of pressure.
I thought I was ready for that. I was ready to slowly grow a readership. Build it book by book. And I'm still committed to that. I wasn't ready for the kind of response Defiance's cover generated. On my blog. On Twitter. In my inbox. That day, I received an average of 200 emails an hour. Comments on the cover. On my FB page. Emails to me personally because I had my personal email still up on my blog. It was an incredible, wonderful surprise.
It was also overwhelming.
I'm not complaining! I love my covers (yes, the next one is just as incredible) like WHOA. I wouldn't change a thing. I just didn't know people would be as excited as I am. That they would want to talk to me about it. And again, that is a lovely and wonderful thing. But after a little while, the introvert in me begged me to step back before I let that overwhelming feeling become something I could no longer deal with.
I have no idea how many of you are like me, so I may be trying to explain something that just won't make sense. But for an introvert who needs space to be creative and who has spent the past two decades walking a fine line between being slightly nuts and clinically depressed, what was lovely and overwhelming soon grew into the kind of pressure that made me want to crawl into a hole.
I know that won't make sense to people who haven't battled depression. How can something wonderful make you want to hide in a cave? I don't know. I really don't. But it does. However, I'm a lot wiser now than I was the first time I went on anti-depression medication. I've learned how to identify triggers and how to set up boundaries for myself so that I can cope without falling into that long, dark hole. I stepped back. I gave myself permission not to have to respond to every kind, amazing comment the very day it was made. And in a few weeks, the attention subsided because other equally amazing covers were revealed.
I walked into March feeling relieved. People loved the cover as much as I did. And while I hadn't been prepared for interacting with so many people in such a short space of time, I'd figured out how to manage it in a way that let me still be accessible to my followers like I want to be without feeling like I was giving all of my energy there and leaving nothing for my family and my writing.
ARCs went out at the end of March, and reviews started rolling in. I'd heard sage advice from published authors to ignore reviews. I gave myself two weeks to read the first reviews because curiosity was killing me. Turns out, the published authors were right. The lovely, warm, gushing reviews made me smile, but also made me look at my draft of Deception with doubt and fear. What if the things they loved in Defiance were missing in Deception? What if I totally screwed up my plot arcs? What if there wasn't enough action? Enough romance? What if, what if, what if .... The negative reviews did the exact same thing, so ... there was no winning, lol.
This didn't send me toward depression, mind you. I honestly believe that it's healthy for our culture to have many different types of books available, and there's no way one book will ever be perfect for every reader. But respecting all kinds of reviews didn't mean I had to read them if it was going torpedo my ability to write the sequel. I function best when I have a high rate of oblivion. I need a cushion around me keeping me from things that can distract me from listening to the characters and walking through the world inside my head. So, I stopped reading reviews. Never went back to Goodreads. Didn't even click links that fans sent to me with their gushing reviews.
I want to be perfectly clear here. I am GRATEFUL. I can't tell you how grateful. For every person who took the time to read my book and share their thoughts. With me or with others. Every email or blog comment I've received from someone who read and loved my book has encouraged me. Just because I don't click the link to read the review doesn't mean I don't treasure your personal message to me, or the fact that you cared enough to reach out. You and your thoughts are precious to me, and I'm grateful.
But this was one of the boundaries I had to build in order to protect myself from the dark places in my own mind. It's too easy for me to listen to doubt and fear and let it overwhelm me. If I don't have to welcome it in, I can't. It's that simple. As part of my search for a solution to help me build that high rate of oblivion around my creative process, I took on the amazing Julie as my intern/assistant. She became the point of contact for me. She organized all my online promo and many of my appearances. She kept her eye on reviews and morons who offered pirated copies of my book and all kinds of other little details that honestly sent me into a bit of a panic when I thought about trying to figure them out. I would've been more than a little lost in 2012 without her.
April and May were good months. I was looking forward to my August release, Julie had things well in hand, and I turned in the first draft of Deception. June was when my year started to really come off the rails. I can't go into a lot of details here because I won't violate my kids' privacy, but in the space of two weeks, two of my kids were hospitalized for very serious conditions. One of them was in an accident that left him with a smashed face and a Traumatic Brain Injury. I went instantly from a working mom to a mom trying to help her son when he couldn't hold a conversation, couldn't keep his balance, and couldn't manage the incredible pain he was in. I was also trying to get an accurate diagnosis and medication for my other son, and both of those situations required constant vigilance, multiple trips up to a children's hospital every week, and many hours of praying that my kids would be okay.
The revisions I was supposed to be doing for Deception flew right out of my head. The characters went silent. And I couldn't care about that. But of course, I couldn't put that off indefinitely because the book was due. Other people's jobs depended on me doing mine. I had to go to my agent and editor, explain the situation, and ask for an extension. And then I had to sit down at the end of July and focus on revising (which is a pleasant sounding word but which actually meant rip the entire thing to shreds and start over) while trying to get ready for my upcoming launch and appearances, and while working with my son's high school to figure out how to accommodate his TBI and all of his medical difficulties without him losing his honors classes or his future.
I turned the next draft of Deception in the week Defiance launched. My launch party was amazing. So many people showed up, and it really touched my heart to see friends, old and new, along with blog readers and book fans there to enjoy the evening with me. I also held an online launch party, and then spent the weekend doing panels at both Dragon*Con and the Decatur Book Festival. Those appearances launched me into the fall where I traveled a few places in September, and then had a running streak of six weeks of travel from Oct to Nov. All while trying to still manage my son's physical and cognitive therapy, my other son's health needs, and oh, yeah ... while rewriting Deception again.
It took me 5 1/2 drafts to get Deception done. It took six months to get the right treatment for one son. It took seven months for my other son to start to feel mostly normal after his accident. All of that happened simultaneously. And I will be honest with you. There was a moment in September when a friend asked me when I was going to have a breakdown, and I told her I couldn't afford to break down because my kids needed me and my book was due, but that the second all of that was off of my plate, she'd hear screaming from my house and she'd know to come lock me away for a few days.
And that is why I basically quit blogging. Why I'd disappear off Twitter for weeks at a time. I just couldn't manage one more thing. Every time I thought about sitting down and writing a blog post, it made me want to cry because I barely had the words for the book I've been paid to write.
I'm very proud of Deception, now. It may have taken me 5 1/2 drafts (and maybe my spleen and half of my brain) to get it done, but it's the right story. It's what I wanted to do when I first sat down to write the book. I'm very grateful that both of my boys are still alive. I'm grateful that they are improving. I'm tremendously honored that readers reach out to me and want to talk about Defiance. I love having those conversations because I'm the kind of reader who identifies strongly with characters in books, and I like to talk about that with others. This post isn't a "please don't talk to me again" post! It's an explanation for where I went last year.
I hope next year is easier, but we're never guaranteed that, are we? That's why we have to be thankful for the blessings we have on any given day. I've decided not to place the stress of a blog schedule on myself this year. I'm finishing up co-writing a secret project this month, I'll be drafting Book 3 the three months after that, writing synopses for two more secret projects, and editing Book 1 in my adult series. I can't expect myself to blog three times a week on top of that.
However! I'll still blog. It will just be sporadic. And I will consistently reply to comments on this blog and on FB or Twitter. I might not be able to reply the day you send it, but I will reply. And if you have a longer note to send to me, you can reach me through the Amazing Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org. I read all of the emails my readers send to me, and again, I reply as soon as I'm able.
Thank you for sticking with me to the end of this incredibly long post! Thank you for being willing to read about the struggles as well as the happy "dream come true" moments. I appreciate you, and I wish us all a wonderful 2013.
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