This has been an amazing year for me.
It didn’t start off very well. The annual chore of doing my taxes revealed how much I’d spent on my writing career and how little I’d earned from it. Being an independent author isn’t quite like any other career. When I started my IT career, there were specific steps I could take to assure advancement and a higher salary. I studied for a second degree at night while working as a computer operator during the day. I applied for—and usually got—jobs requiring more knowledge and more responsibility on a regular basis, eventually holding titles such as Director of Data Processing and Senior Programmer/Analyst. When the company I was working for was sold or shut down, I found another company to work for. When programming jobs started heading offshore, I bit the bullet and relocated to take jobs in other areas of the country.
As an independent author, relocating doesn’t help much, and there are no other companies to work for. Sure, you can move from a place like New York City to Tucson to cut costs, but you’ll still be doing the same job for the same employer. You can take courses, but it’s not the same as adding a new programming language to your resume. No one is impressed if you take a MasterClass with James Patterson. They’re only impressed by the books you write, and that only if they manage to hear of you and decide to purchase one of those books.
I was feeling deeply pessimistic by midyear. I couldn’t see the point of continuing to sit at my computer and type mediocre words all day. So, after publishing Ghost White Murder, which barely made a ripple in the publishing world, I took a month off. No advertising, no planning the next book, no pushing myself to get out there and promote or network or anything else. It turned out to be just what I needed.
During the break, I realized I wasn’t having fun writing. I was so worried about production schedules and marketing and making money, I was stressing myself out as much as when I was working sixty-hour weeks as a programmer. But if I stopped writing, what would I do with all that time now that I no longer had a day job?
It was a foolish question. I’d “given up” writing several times before, but it never lasted. I enjoy the process of writing too much to stay away from it for long. But maybe I didn’t have to pursue it as supplemental retirement income. Maybe I could consider it a hobby and write for my enjoyment. I didn’t have to chase the bestseller lists if I didn’t want to.
The African Violet Club series started as that kind of project. I wrote the first two books in between my “serious” novels. I didn’t really intend on publishing them. When I did decide to release them, I also decided not to spend money I didn’t have in publication. I did my own copywriting and even designed my own covers. And I had fun doing it. But somewhere along the way, the new series became work, just like my first series had been.
When I went back to writing, I decided to let myself focus on the part of the story in which I’d found the most enjoyment. I decided to focus on the relationship between Lilliana and Christopher. And that’s why Holly Green Murder is as much a romance as it is a mystery. I think it’s also why one of my beta readers called it my best book yet.
I’m going to try my hand at a series of romance novels next year. I’m having a lot of fun learning about a new genre and looking forward to writing something completely different. Because, as an old boss of mine once said when I turned in my notice, if it’s not fun, it’s not worth it. This should be fun. I’m thankful for that.
I’m also thankful that my daughter-in-law, after over a year of surgeries and radiation and chemo, is cancer-free. She still has a long road to recovery, but her life is no longer in danger.
I’m thankful for my son and my grandson and the time we spent together this week.
I’m thankful that my ninety-one year old mother is still healthy enough to have flown to Dallas to spend Thanksgiving with my brother.
I’m thankful my sister is going to be a grandmother for the second time.
I’m thankful for the glorious sunrises and sunsets of southern Arizona.
I’m thankful for the writers, both online and in person, who give me people who understand my passion for writing because they have it, too.
I’m thankful for my beta readers and the fans who let me know they enjoy my books.
Last Sunday, as I sat in church, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy flow through me. It’s felt so good to find a church that wasn’t a political forum, but is always strongly focused on the teachings of the Bible and the love of God. And, as I sang and prayed with the congregation, I was struck by the change from my despondence earlier in the year to the joyfulness I’m feeling now. I’m most thankful for that.