Writing and Life Update

*taps computer screen*

*is this thing on?*

*listens for crickets*

I haven’t blogged in a REALLY long time. So long I wasn’t even sure how to get into Blogger anymore! But, I did it, and I’m here. The sweet people that have urged me to blog again will now be happy, and those asking if I’ve fallen off the face of the earth will get an answer.

So, where have I been and what’s up with the whole writing thing, you ask??

Let’s go back to 2014.

The first of the year was a little rough as my dad dealt with prostate cancer and radiation while taking care of my mother who had Alzheimers. Life becomes an entirely different ballgame when your parents begin to decline. It’s a constant worry, a daily stressor. It happens too suddenly, and you’re not ready, and you realize how fast life moves. But things went okay. The cancer was controlled, and we took life day by day with my mom. I won’t lie. The stress dimmed my creativity many days. It was hard to think around everything that was happening. I spent 9 days in San Francisco with no book thoughts in mind, really. Uncertain of what path my writing career even needed to take.

It was a nice break.

And then life dealt some change.

First, a book idea hit me out of nowhere one day in the car rider line to pick up my youngest child, and even though I thought it was a fluke (it had a historical voice, and I was a science fiction writer) I typed it into the Notes app on my phone. The character that would not shut up was in the year 1640, which made me ignore her. The panic switch would flip if I told my CP’s I was contemplating a genre change. I shared the first words from this character with them and was expectedly met with…WHAT IS THAT?

I felt the same way, completely confused, and let the idea sit in my phone.

Then, more change. My hubby had a job switch that moved him temporarily to Nassau, Bahamas.

Yeah. What luck, right? His employer would fly me to see him whenever I wanted, and he could come home every two weeks. I dreamt of days full of nothing but writing on the beach, a respite from the stress. He lived in a resort, (again, I know, what luck), therefore *I* would live in a resort while there. It was pretty much the perfect scenario. No laundry. No cleaning. No cooking. Free food. Plenty of sunshine and mixed drinks. A writer’s dream. Only I’m also a mom, so I had to wait until the kids were out of school for the summer to travel.

While I was waiting for Nassau, I took a weekend to attend a writing conference in New Orleans, where I did fun things like chat with Charlaine Harris.

*me with really stupid grin, and Charlaine*

It was there that my current MS came to life–that crazy idea in my phone with the 17th century woman trying to tell me about her plight as she stared down at a dead body on the shore of the River Thames.

I’d never considered writing anything like this. Kinda historical fantasy? Maybe time travel romance? Could I even do it? Should I do it?

The answer, as crazy as it seemed to me at the time, was WHY NOT? So I spent an entire day locked in a NOLA hotel room with a CP doing nothing but plotting. When it was over, I had the skinny bones of a novel.

Fast forward a couple months, and this was often my daily view:

It was pretty amazing. I wrote all summer, when I could, because like it or not, traveling in and out of the country with kids repeatedly is tiresome. On top of that, while the break from the stress of life was great, reality always waited on the other side. And now, instead of having my husband’s shoulder to rest my head on when the day had been too much, I was alone. And it sucked.
Come fall, I had much of the rough draft written, and I hated all of it. Every. Single. Word.
Even though I’d had a plot to follow, the book was what I call “swiss-cheesed.” You couldn’t have taken a machine gun to the beginning chapters and come out any worse. The number of plot holes I uncovered as I wrote was astounding, and I struggled to force out that rough draft knowing those holes existed. It was crazy hard for me–being the analytical perfectionist I am–to keep moving forward instead of going backward to begin repairing the mess.
I was in the midst of trying to finish the draft when my mother took a turn for the worst. I’d just seen her days before when I went with my parents for my dad’s heart checkup. She’d laughed with me and hugged me and knew who I was, which wasn’t always the case. But then in the middle of November, things changed suddenly, as they often do with Alz, and after some of the most emotionally grueling days of my life, she passed away in hospice. She was 73.
The end of the year was, to say the least, difficult. My husband came home and blessedly accepted a job offer in Nashville so he could stop traveling. I needed him, and he didn’t fail me. I tried to write just to get my mind off things, but I was surrounded by depression. We’d lost such an important part of our familial mechanism that we didn’t know how to function without her.
I was glad to see the holidays go in 2014, and thankful for a new year. I finished that horrible rough draft just before my dad had a heart attack in February. He made it through, but that was only a foreshadowing of what was to come in 2015. My dad had his gall bladder removed, prostate surgery, open heart/triple bypass, and is now fighting bladder cancer. He has surgery next week to remove his bladder.
I’ve become a good nurse.
We’re nearing November again, and as for the writing front, I’m in rewrites. I now love this book. It’s been a feat to get it this far, but I love it. I took most of the first half of the year to figure out how to fix everything, and how to better deliver the book I envisioned. I attended yet another conference in Dallas this spring where two of my CP’s helped me hammer out the final plot issues. These ladies are awesome brainstormers, btw.
Authors JL Henry and Melinda S. Collins
It took a while, but I realized that this was the book I’d been waiting for. The book that would carve out a niche for me in the writing world. It might never end up on bookshelves, but it’s shown me a side to my writing self that I didn’t even know existed. Ideas flow in a specific vein now, almost like they were just waiting for me to get out of the way so they could show me what I was meant to write. I have two more books waiting in the wings for my attention.
So I haven’t vanished, and I’ve by no means stopped writing. How do writers ever stop writing?
I’ve been growing. Toughening my writer chops. Accepting where I am. Because at the end of the day, a writing career means writing and working around life. It means finishing what you start. I don’t know when I’ll be done. I get this question all the time. Unfortunately, I can’t quantify all the factors that go into finishing a novel like a calculator. I wish I could. So instead of saying I’ll be done by ____, I’ll say I’ll be done when the book is ready. And it’s well on its way.
Somehow, even in my absence, this blog has received about 125K views, and I appreciate that so much. I hope everyone is well and writing hard!
Check back in next week for a less depressing post 😉 I have books to share with you!!
Much thanks,
Charissa

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2 Comments

  1. Hey Charissa! So sorry about your mother. Prayers for you and your family.
    I bet traveling back and forth between the States and the Bahamas is exhausting. Especially with kids.
    Glad you've found the book you were meant to write though!