The pandemic taught me to bend without breaking.
Actually, I learned many things during this chaotic time in our history. I was brought to my knees with grief and also exhilarated by new choices and opportunities. I learned that when everything gets serious it’s more important than ever to have a sense of humor. I learned to let go, and I embraced new things with open arms.
I often wonder how we’ll look back on this period in our lives in ten years? Or fifty? How will our children be different young adults than we were as a result of this shift in our lives?
The pandemic showed me that I don’t know everything and that sometimes my assumptions are just plain wrong. It’s a lesson I’m very thankful for everyday.
So, here I am, on this blog that started as a journal for all my weird and crazy exploits and became a place to showcase writing talent (mine, but mostly other amazing authors). And now I’m ready for a new beginning with a slightly different focus.
Why I Mention the Pandemic
Not that it isn’t an ever-present topic of discussion these days, but I bring it up here because I’ve been thinking about how it impacted one very specific part of my life.
I mean, who hasn’t been smooshed around a little bit, both inside and out, by the past few years? We’ve all had personal experiences related to COVID-19 and I am no exception. I homeschooled my kids for a year, tried to keep my writing organization afloat, and discovered (the hard way) that ordering donuts for delivery is a bad idea.
I could write a book about how I’ve changed as a person, but before I get to anything that intimate, let me start with the implications of literally writing and publishing books during a global pandemic.
Because I published a book in 2021 and it was a very strange experience.
Publishing in a Time of COVID
I don’t think it particularly matters whether you’re traditionally or indie published–every single author who put a book out during the pandemic was affected by a change in how events are done, production shortages, and a host of other situations that none of us were entirely prepared for. I know a few authors who put publication off by a year or two to try and avoid the pitfalls of an unpredictable market and ever-changing social and political environment.
Me? I decided what the hell.
Publishing a book consists of a number of completely routine and sometimes soul-wrenching tasks, from actually writing the book to editing and revisions, to layout and cover design, to the dreaded pre- and post-publication promotion. Most of those items are just part of the process. You know they’re coming and you generally know how you’re going to get them done.
But oh the pain of promotion during lockdown.
As an indie author, I’ve experimented with a lot of different promotional ideas, but at some point, live events usually happen. Except when they can’t. Or they can, but on Zoom.
Zoom fatigue anyone?
The two things that really got me through the launch of Complicit were my publicist and my online launch party team. Hiring a publicist was incredibly important in getting the word out to new readers. She kept me hopping with blog interviews and podcast invites for months both pre- and post-publication.
In lieu of an in-person launch party, I had a Zoom event (I’m sure most of of us did) and though I wondered how it was all going to work out, I had such amazing support. First from my BFF who did all the background technical stuff allowing me to just focus on interacting. And second, from my amazing author friend Rea Frey who hosted the event and was such a joy to be in conversation with.
Learning to Let Go of the Outcome
As with everything else going on at the time, each day during my book launch presented a bunch of opportunities and lessons. Despite all the hard work being done by me and my team, I truly had no idea what to expect and if you know me, you know I hate the unknown.
And the pandemic said, “Oh yeah? Hold my beer. “
So I’ll be the first to admit that I was taken by surprise at how well the launch for Complicit went. Books sales were excellent, reviews came pouring in, and before I knew it, work on the next book launch was underway.
And, as usual, wackiness ensues.
Be Kind to Yourselves
The pandemic taught me to bend without breaking, and part of that lesson came in learning to be kind to myself. As a person who juggles a million projects (self-inflicted chaos), I’m often the source of my own stress and, in the past, it’s been hard to avoid being self-critical, even when my expectations were so ridiculous even I could see it.
Thankfully, no more.
Well, mostly. I still kick myself here and there when I drop the ball. And I do (being human can be a real drag sometimes). But I’ve learned to be kinder to myself. To listen to my body. To rest when I need it. To say no. To say yes. To ask for help.
I’m a much healthier person now despite being in a global pandemic.
Isn’t that weird?
More talk about self-publishing. More talk about books. More talk about life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how my visual impairment has affected my life and work. I’m always brainstorming new story ideas. It’s all on the table!
For sanity’s sake, I’d like to turn some of my social media attention toward this blog and new newsletter. More and more these days, I’m finding it difficult to create real connections on social and I want to connect with you, dear readers, friends, and family.
So, probably a lot of random things, but I want to hear from you! What do you want to know?
Are you an aspiring writer or an avid reader?
Are you interested in the research that goes into books like mine?
I look forward to hearing from you.
I just got back from my first Killer Nashville conference AND my first visit to the state of Tennessee. As it turns out, I have a bunch of family living outside of Nashville and was able to not only get some writing inspiration, but also see family members I haven’t seen in years (and, in some cases, decades). The Nashville area is gorgeous and it was so nice to reconnect with my relatives.
I also got to do some sightseeing including a visit to the Parthenon (hey, Percy Jackson, look what I found!), tours of the Belmont and Vanderbilt campuses and a trip to Hattie B’s for some hot chicken (PS when they say hot, they mean HOT!).
The conference itself was a real eye-opener. I’ve never left a writing conference where I didn’t learn something, and this was no exception. I visited the mock crime scene several times to test my sleuthing skills. I attended a number of panels on craft and career management. And, most importantly, I networked. I met some incredible writers, made some new friends, and was given some heady perspective on my writing career. I hadn’t realized it before, but I was making some pretty major decisions about the direction of my career based on fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of making the wrong choices.
For the past two years (almost) I’ve been inviting authors onto my blog to talk about their writing journey, the risks they’ve taken and the things that have inspired their work. As a result, I know that I’m not alone in feeling the pressure. I’ve learned a lot in the past four years of full-time writing, but the lessons never stop coming and for that I am immensely thankful.
Killer Nashville provides a really interesting mix of opportunities. Over the course of four days, I met four literary agents, two of whom requested materials. I took copious notes on the craft of writing (Jeffrey Deaver’s master class was amazing!). And I heard some inspiring success stories about self-publishing. This last point caused a whole lot of commotion in my brain. I self-published Wallflower Bloomingearly in my career, when I was still learning as I went. An indie publisher in Colorado picked up WB and its sequel Best Laid Plans & Other Disasters. A third book was in the contract, but life happens to all of us and book three was put on the backburner as I turned my focus to writing thrillers. And in doing so, I found myself back where I started with no agent and no publishing contract.
That was OK by me. I needed to work on my craft and revise my plan for moving forward. In the meantime, I published a short story and more pieces for ESME and Novelty Bride. I kept busy. I decided to start again with traditional publishing as my goal, and once the revisions were done on my first thriller manuscript, I started querying agents.
I’m still immersed in that process. I’d put the whole idea of ever self-publishing again on hold indefinitely, but when I heard J.A. Konrath speak at the conference, his words stopped me in my tracks. I love it when someone makes you throw out all your preconceived notions and take a hard look at what you’re doing. That’s what Joe’s talk did for me, and as the weekend progressed I heard more stories that continued to challenge the plans I’d made for my writing career.
When I got home, my husband (smart guy that he is) listened as I rambled about the direction of my writing career and asked a simple, but incredibly important question that I hadn’t been putting into words up until that moment: what are your career goals? Seems pretty basic, yes? This is advice I give to other writers all the time—define success, put your goals in writing, and so on—but somehow was overlooking for myself. And as I started to answer this question, I realized that my previous plans had been largely based in fear.
On the final day of the conference, Joe Konrath asked me what my take-away from the conference was. Here it is. No fear. As I move forward, I will make informed decisions based not on what everyone else is doing, not on what I think I SHOULD be doing, but based on what I WANT to be doing, what I feel is right for me, and what will help me reach myprofessional goals. Could mean traditional publishing, could mean self-publishing, or maybe some combination of both. It probably sounds simple, but sometimes you need a good kick in the pants to make you see things you should have been seeing all along. Thanks Joe!
And here we go!
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.