Today

Anyone with the vast sense of loss can understand the emptiness on days that would, in another lifetime, come in celebration. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries spent honoring love and life together. One day those dates come and go without the same meaning. But our hearts remember. Our minds cling to the memories. The snapshots of years past with the same dates fill dark voids.

I’d like to call. I’d like to send wishes of peace and happiness. No number exists in my world. None to call. No one to answer. It’s another day. Another day I am reminded of what I don’t have instead of what I wanted.

Just how do we handle such emotion on these difficult days? Surely, they pepper the calendar all year long. Are some more difficult than others?

Today. I will sit. In quiet. I will say happy birthday twice. I will remember. I will cry. And I will soak up the sun to remind myself I am alive. And I owe it to anyone who has loved me even once to live while I can.

Yesterday, I wrote these words:

I ache for your voice. For the stubble brushing my cheek as we hug. I ache for your love and acceptance. I ache for the memories of you. For forgiveness and moving on. But I accept. As much as I ask for the same, I’ve simply learned it’s what you want. Acceptance too. So, I do.

I accept you are both gone. One I cannot touch. One won’t touch me. Instead of the memories of smiles and heartache, I give the gift of moving on. It isn’t what I thought it would be. It isn’t us smiling together. But it is me smiling with fond memories. And it’s you smiling. Wherever you are. I accept it now.

It’s the little things

It only takes a few small things to snowball into one massive emotion, struggle, or success. I’ve said it’s been a tough two years. It doesn’t need to be repeated. But, for me, those toughest moments live weaker in the snowballing success.

A few weeks ago, I got notification that two of my tiny pieces would be published on Nailpolish Stories. This is a fun site with the strict requirement of exactly twenty-five words base on a color of a nail polish.

Funny, I don’t paint my nails. I’ve never really gotten into that sort of feminine care. I’ve tried. I’ve given several reasons or excuses over the years for why my nails aren’t as colorful as the rest of me, but really those excuses don’t fly. In reality, I’m just too lazy.

But this was a fun project. I got to peruse the vast web for fun colors and imagine where those colors took me and my writing. The editor picked two pieces to publish here.

Thank you to Nailpoish Stories and to Nicole, its founder and managing editor. I hope to peruse this world of shiny colors again.

My snowball just got larger this afternoon when I saw this message from my school. As part of rebuilding myself, I searched for a school that would fit my needs, my personality, my goals, and my past in the industry. I have been in theatre. I have been in music. I have written novels. The university I chose is the perfect fit, and I am happy to report I still hold a 4.0 average. I cannot promise I can keep that, but I will dedicate myself to doing my best.

Today, I received this note:

I wanted to let you know that you have earned the Course Director’s Award for Scriptwriting Techniques, for your section this past March! This recognizes your outstanding work, your dedication to your craft, and your ability to generously and professionally contribute to your fellow students’ success. You definitely crushed it this month.

 This award is documented in your college records, announced at your graduation ceremony, and it marks you as a student of distinction. 

Thank you for your inspiring commitment. It has been a pleasure being your guide on your journey through this course.

Congratulations! I really am looking forward to hearing about you as your career progresses. Please stay in touch 

Regards,

 I cannot tell you how these two things, fifty tiny words published and an award from my school of choice fitting for my specific industry, lift my spirits. This is a snowball I will happily climb onto and ride.

So many things around us bring us down. We often ride these negative snowballs which turn to avalanches buying us in deep snow. Instead of placing focus on the negative, I choose to ride the positive. They won’t always appear exactly when I need them, but they are there. From the sunshine each day to smiles on faces in the world surrounding me.

I ask that you do that same. Focus on the positive. Ride those snowballs like rollercoasters up large hills with a down filled with invigoration and glee. Share your positives with those around you. This is a tough world. There are folks out there with goals to simply bring us down. We win each and every day when we prove their competition, our foundational support systems, are large and enormously positive.

The Big Comeback

I don’t even know where to start, you guys!

It has been a whirlwind of a couple of years here in Stella’s world.

The move to Arizona: the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

The move to Arizona: the worst thing I’ve ever done to myself.

 

Just how does one cope with both extremes at once?

I spent a year bouncing back and forth wondering, ‘What have I done?’

I’ve spent close to ten years, maybe more, I refuse to dive any deeper, living a good life. But with huge compromises.

 

I, like many mothers, like many wives, put myself last on every list I made. Did I need something? Surely someone in my family needed something more than I.

Did I want something? Sure, but raising children certainly pushes wants to the side. And when parents get a chance to focus on wants, we often fill our children’s buckets first.

I won’t bother to fill you with details of my downfall but know I am up again.

I won’t speak poorly of others but know I have my own story to tell.

 

But what I will do is remind you to look at yourself and ask where you are placed in your world today.

And why?

I encourage you to stand up for yourself. In your home. At your job. With your parents, with your children, with your spouse. Stand up and stand firm. And know I will stand with you and hold you up if you topple.

I couldn’t have rebuilt my own foundation if it weren’t for those who held me up these past two years.

I learned love is hard. And it’s unforgiving. And it is certainly conditional at times. But loving yourself is so much tougher than loving someone else. Seeing good in others is easy. They fill your flawed holes with the things you wish you had. Strength. Wisdom. Acceptance. Tolerance. Patience.

But filling those voids alone is where we thrive. When we sit with ourselves and wait for the magic moment where we accept ourselves, our mistakes, our discretions, and our flaws, our world opens to possibility.

I knew I wouldn’t be loved.

I was told I was unloveable.

I was reminded of unforgivable acts time and time again. Simple things such as asking to attend a birthday party. Unforgivable.

I was told I wasn’t worth it.

I wasn’t even sure what ‘it’ was. Nor was I sure I even wanted it.

Time and time again in my life, I have said goodbye to people who couldn’t offer me what I wanted or needed. I have said goodbye beacuse I didn’t offer what they needed or wanted either. Time and time again I have lost love to hold on to sanity.

Until her.

She opened my world again.

She showed me I am loveable.

I am worth it.

And I know what ‘it’ is. Finally.

It is pure magic.

It’s love. It’s tolerance. It’s acceptance. It’s longing and yearning. It’s desire. It’s respect. It’s understanding. It’s laughing. It’s crying together. It’s a hug at the end of a long day. It’s a reminder that you are valued. It’s everything good handed to you with a smile. It’s everything bad shared because we, as social beings, shouldn’t have to feel alone. It’s forgiveness. It’s kindness. It’s gentle. It’s fierce. It’s love. Pure and simple. Gray yet filled with colors, love knows no bounds and it grows by the minute. It’s challenged and stronger, not weaker, after the run.

It’s honest. It’s lovely. It’s imperfect.

 

It’s not hurt. It’s not pain. It’s not cruel. It’s not guilt. It’s not hatred.

 

Stella is getting her groove back.

I came out to my father at nineteen years old. My heart was broken by a few women in the time before I walked away from pride and rainbows. I buried my first girlfriend. I broke a heart or two myself.

I let fear guide me along my path. Over the years, I fed a relationship that didn’t feed me back. And then I stopped feeding it. I suffered. The relationship suffered. Our children suffered.

Today, I am out again. I come to you with a notion of love.

It doesn’t matter who you love.

I am in love with a woman who was built just for me. I’ve waited for her my whole life. I looked for her in every person I’ve met. But she was never there.

Today she is here – with me. And as I fought to keep my work going here and let the world forget Stella Samuel, she was here to remind me I can come back. I can rebuild. And I can keep writing.

I’ve disappeared far too long. But I had reason.

I’m coming back. With a re-release and a new release. And I’ll kindly ask for your help bringing me back into the world of reading and writing.

I have big things going on, and I’ll need you if you’re still here. Bring a friend.

 

With this new publishing venture, I’ll be starting a mailing list. I hope you’ll sign up. I also hope you’ll share with people you know.

Until then, I thank you for allowing me the time to check in. Don’t forget to check in with yourself today too! You matter to so many in your world. Make sure you matter to yourself as well.

Big Life Changes

I have been writing. I have been living. And I will be sharing all the great things going on in my writing world again, but for now, I’ve left my website alone so I could focus on the important things in life. Living it.

I still have three novels in the works, two close to ready for my editor. The other in a rewrite stage. I’ve also started that children’s series I’ve talked about for years. And I’m trying to get my other name back out into the real world.

I miss connecting with my writing world. It amazes me at times just how much I need this…this writing…this connection…this creativity to survive.

But in the past six months, I’ve learned and focused on one thing. I no longer want to only survive. I want to live. So I will.

And soon, I will share more writing from Stella’s world.

I hope you all are well and enjoying the new growth of a beautiful spring.

Stella

 

 

 

Happy New Year

 

happymade

As we end the year which will go down in history as the one which started the apocalypse, as some would say, I would like to begin to look ahead. A world without Mrs. Brady. A world without David Bowie. A world where each time I watch Severus Snape, a tear sneaks from the corner of my eye.  A world where a princess and the dancer who created my love of musicals are together in a beyond I cannot fathom just yet.

This year I took more control of my life. Of my feelings. And of my own actions. I pushed a move to Arizona to better my life and that of my daughter who had been bullied, violently at times. It worked. I am happy to say, though we have parenting challenges, she is doing quite well. She is coping. People here are kind. There seems to be little drama she gets involved in. And oddly enough no one pushes her down the stairs.

The other thing I did this year was quite selfish. I decided I wanted to live. I want to be alive. I want to wake each day in love. I want to watch the sun rise knowing I am loved. I want to live each day to the fullest. Face each challenge with grace. I want to feel pride again. Pride for my home, my family, my life. I didn’t seek a new adventure. It found me. Life looked me in the eye and said, if you want to be a part of this, jump in and hold on tight because this will hurt at times, but it will also be incredible. You’ll need to decide which one is worth the fight. Give up or live the life of someone alive. I cried at times this year, not knowing how I would move forward with the challenges I accepted into my life. I’m sure I will cry even more as these challenges face me each day going forward. But there will be a point where I am in a good place again and the journey will have been worth it. The journey is the goal, right? The journey needs to be good in order for the end to be rewarding. If the journey isn’t fulfilling, then I didn’t cross the paths I needed to cross. I didn’t climb the mountains I needed to climb. Speaking of climbing, I hiked Camelback Mountain recently and can’t wait to get back up there again. Hiking to the top to see the world around me is something I want to relish every day. Each day I’d like to wake knowing I am but a small part of this world but I can overcome the negativity which faces me.

I didn’t write as much as I thought I would this year. The next year will change that. As I face my new normal, writing will become the outlet I’ve always needed it to be. I have three books in the works right now. My goal this year will be to get one to market and the second ready for Spring of 2018 if not earlier. Then the third, which I wrote just last month during NaNoWriMo, ready for the following year. It sure would be nice if I have them all ready earlier. The next challenge I’ve created for myself in my writing world is the middle school series I’ve allowed to float around in my head for years.

Add to that a home renovation and the need for an office in which to write again, and I think I have a pretty full year ahead.

Someone asked me recently if I am happy. I said yes. And I meant it this time. I am truly happy. I struggle with a lot of things. This coming year will bring new challenges as our family changes once again. But I am making my way, creating my path, and making my own happiness. Because I matter. To me. And to the people who love me.

If you do anything new or different in 2017, I’d ask that you make your own happiness. Force big change on yourself. Push yourself. Challenge those around you to love you in the ways you need to be loved. I made my happiness. Go make yours. Make it a great year.

Stella

 

 

The One I Never Wanted to Write

Sometimes life just ends. And it affects us all. Godspeed, Cindy.

Eastwood Eagle Watchers

This one is hard.

This one is a post that I hoped that I would never have to write. But it must be done because it is such an important part of the story.

Today The Treetop Palace has lost its queen.

I have often said that “life in the wild is wild” and that was never more true than it was today. My emotions are churning and I have no idea if my fingers can even put into words the thoughts that are swirling around in my head.

The overlying purpose of this blog is to share the stories of Jim and Cindy’s adventures in a way that is both factual and entertaining. But just as important is our goal to educate our readers on the realities of life in the wild. Jim and Cindy have met challenge after challenge and they have overcome each one. But some challenges are just too…

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Strength in shoes

A storm had blown through earlier in the day. Everything was wet and the house felt cold. Knowing I was going to cook dinner and spend an evening packing, I put on warm fleece pajama bottoms, the ones with snowflakes, I believe, and a long sleeve cotton tee. I had begun packing our pantry items. We only had just over a week left in the Colorado house and a pantry filled with food. As I was pulling food out to pack, I found even more to throw away. So I began my journey of toss and pack. The storm passed and the sun came back out to dry the patio and walkway. It was warm, but I didn’t bother changing back into summer clothing. I can wear PJs all year any time of day or night.

I had taken two trash bags outside to our trashcan and started dinner. It was close to 5pm. Rice was cooking and was at the point where I had turned the gas burner to simmer. I had plenty of time to load one more trash bag and take it outside. The moment I got to the trashcan outside, I heard a horrific crash. Looking up and outside the neighborhood on the main road, I saw a green bike down. Shit. It’s a motorcycle, I thought to myself. I know riders. My sister rides. I have many friends who ride. Motorcycle down doesn’t sit well with me.

I ran inside the house, grabbed my cell phone and slipped on a pair of shoes. As I dialed 911, I ran down the street.

When I got there, I realized it wasn’t a motorcycle. It was a dirt bike. And it wasn’t a man. Or a woman. It was two young boys. Both lying in the road. Both broken. Both bleeding. Broken.

I’ve debated whether or not to share everything I saw that day. And I decided not to share. I was disappointed in a few things, like people standing around not talking to the boys. The town employee smoking his cigarette several feet from the boys and me while we were on the ground next to the bike leaking gasoline. I was on the phone with 911, so I had clear instructions. I was able to talk to them both while we waited for help.

Once the helicopter took one and an ambulance took the other, I was able to shift my focus on the three boys who were with these two amazing young men. They were in shock. I told them I’d stay with them until their parents came. It was during one of the moments talking to those three boys when I noticed my shoes were wet. The grass I ran through, the grass on the side of the road, and the puddle near the boy I stayed with the longest while he was waiting for help had soaked my feet.

Much happened that day, including the harsh realization I had left dinner cooking in the oven and on the stove with children inside my house. Luckily, I was able to ask a neighbor for help.

Today, living in Arizona, I asked my daughter to grab me a pair of shoes before I took her to school. She brought me those shoes. I don’t think I’ve worn them since.

This morning, I put them on and thought of that day. I thought of these two boys. I was able to see them both at the hospital before we left Colorado. I am happy to say I know they are both doing well. They are both recovering. I know one has moved with his family to another state. They are all closer to family, love, and support. I saw a photo of him standing and walking recently. I sat in a room by myself with the biggest smile on my face looking at a still shot I wasn’t sure I’d ever see. The other has been through several surgeries and seems to be doing well. At least much better than when I last saw him. I hope they remain friends for life.

These boys and their families will live in my heart forever. They may not remember me. But I will always remember them. I wish them the best life has to offer. They are here. There was an awful chance they could not be here. But they are. I hope they do amazing things as they continue to grow.

Today, I’m wearing my dirty shoes. I could wash them. I could toss them out. But today, I will think of the amazing feats we all face each day. The strength these boys gave to me. The strength they gave to their families. The strength they have. It lives in these shoes. Today. For me.

20160808_104733

 

 

A Bad Case of the Mondays

Ever wake up and know you should have rolled over until the next sunrise?

As nausea swept over my body on Friday, I knew I was beginning to fight a migraine. So I made life easy. I canceled plans, made a frozen pizza for dinner for my children, and went to bed. Saturday was much the same. By dinner time on Saturday, I felt well enough to take my children to Chipotle for another quick and easy dinner. And eating some solid food, even if fast, or rather, quickly prepared by someone else, was good for me. But by 8pm, I was ready for bed.  Quickly to bed. But…..We have more belongings arriving from Colorado any moment.

Sunday we had a trailer to empty. It was nothing compared to the three trucks we’d brought from Colorado in the weeks past. The last of our belongings. Basically a bunch of shit. Shit we need, shit we might want…but shit. Patio furniture, bikes, lawn mower and yard supplies. Ick. Nothing exciting. Nothing worth spending the next few hours emptying space in a garage to drag more stuff into. But I did get Colorado wine. Granted, not the Colorado wine I wanted. But the brand I’d asked for, so credit is deserved. So migraine or not, I had to plow through and help unload the truck is our shit. The worst moment was when a board fell inside the trailer while I was standing inside. The volume of the wood hitting the metal reached depths of my brain which haven’t thought of the light of day since conception. The pain was horrible. Tears ran down my face, and it wasn’t long after that I crawled into bed, a desert-baked sweat machine, shivering from the heat, trying not to move for fear of puking all over the bed.

After a few hours back in bed, I was able to function. And I was able to say out loud, after three days of migraine misery, I had no plans to cook. So we headed with our children to IHOP where I gorged on French Toast and eggs. Okay, I didn’t gorge. But in the middle of a Whole 30 challenge after a three-day day migraine, I ate French Toast. All of it. And I wanted more.

Fast forward to Monday.

I usually wake at 5:30am for a wonderful morning swim alone – meaning without my children saying, “Watch this, Mama. Watch me.”

But we had a big storm Friday night, which I can also thank for the fabulous migraine. The Sharknado like winds filled our pool with leaves and sand. And a lovely scorpion who lay seven feet under with his stinger pointed up and his angry pinchers out ready to attack. Even after he succumbed to the lack of oxygen, he appeared ready to fight.

So no laps this morning.

But, really, after three days feeling like I’d been tossed through the desert winds and held under water for three days myself, it wasn’t going to hurt me at all to skip my morning laps.

So I jumped on Monday back to school chores for my children. Three school lunches to pack. Having three different children usually means three completely different menus. Three large cups of ice water prepared with ice from a bag and bottle water dumped into a special kid cup. Because we’re indoor camping in our new home while we begin renovations. It sure is fun.

Surely, someone else wrote that last sentence.

Our children started school last week. Why? Because it’s Arizona. And when it’s 110 degrees outside, we’d like them to be in school rather than in the pool for fifteen hours or playing Minecraft for thirteen hours. This, being the second week of school, is the week they are to be prepared, know what to expect, and participate. Bright and early, my fifth grader comes downstairs crying with her fingers bent at the knuckles. I run to her thinking she’d smashed her hands looking for clothes while digging in a box….because we’re not really unpacked just yet. Swimming for fifteen hours tends to take away from the not so fun chores, like unpacking. Turned out it wasn’t her hand at all. It was her feet.

Let’s go back about two weeks when we did all of our back to school shopping. We bought pencils, notebooks, thumb drives, glue sticks…..all the necessary items the schools put on a list; half of which is still sitting on a couch in another room because according to my children, they don’t actually need it all. Included in those back to school shopping trips were new clothes. New shorts, power shirts to make them feel good while sitting in class all day, new shoes.

New shoes.

My fifth grader told me in the middle of Famous Footwear, “I don’t really need new shoes. I’m good.” This after I took her and her little brother who told me before we left the house he didn’t need new shoes but wanted to come along for the ride. I stood in the shoe store and listened to my daughter talk about how she didn’t need anything. I’m not even sure of the words she used, but they sounded something like a huge waste of time, why do I bother, didn’t they know when I said let’s go get new shoes for school that it meant we were going to a shoe store to buy shoes…..but her words mixed with my thoughts, so they probably didn’t sound like that at all. My son, who didn’t want shoes, immediately found a new pair of shoes he wanted. Great, not a wasted trip. My daughter found a pair of sandals. It’s still summer, so fine, get sandals.

Forward back to this morning and her crunched hands. She proceeds to tell me her toes looked like her fingers, all bent inside her sneakers. “They are too small, Mama, I need new shoes.”

Wait.

Didn’t we buy new back to school shoes just over a week ago? Didn’t we look at sneakers? And didn’t you say you didn’t need any?

Not only does she need new shoes. She needs them now. At 7:24 in the morning. On a Monday. Because she has PE on Mondays and has to be dressed appropriately.

I’m a mom about solutions. I had an old boss who used to tell me to come to him with a problem and potential solutions, otherwise, it was just venting, or in man-language, whining. Having children, I see what he means now. Oddly enough, just on Friday morning, before the migraine took over the next two days of my life, I picked up a new pair of Skechers for my oldest daughter. We had been standing at the bus stop where I noticed her current shoes had a hole forming above her toes. She wears these shoes just about every day. They fit great. They are just worn. She also told me she didn’t need new shoes but would in a few months. But because I saw holes forming, I bought her new shoes. She was in school when I bought them, so she didn’t try them on in the store. But I bought the same brand, same style, same size. I even wondered if I should go up a size. But I didn’t because the ones she wears every day fit great, they are just worn from everyday use….and constant skateboarding.

Same brand.

Same style.

Same size.

Different color.

Skechers Skech-Air - Laser Lite Girls' Athletic Shoes

Skechers Skech Air Inspire Girls' Walking Shoes

Same brand.

Same style.

Same size.

You get the idea. Right?

So I ask my oldest on Monday morning if she’d tried on her new shoes.

Yes.

Good. Did they fit?

Yes.

Good. Give your sister your old shoes to wear today. Hers don’t fit and she has PE today.

I didn’t actually see it happen, but I believe the Earth opened up, swallowed my daughter, and spit out a demon right where she had been standing just a moment before.

But the new ones don’t fit. They are too big.

(too big?)

If I give her my shoes, I’ll get detention because I have to have them for my fitness class.

At this point, her voice was so high only the dogs could hear her.

Okay. You have two pairs of shoes. Both are the same size. I don’t care which pair you let her use, give your sister a pair to wear for today.

I walked back down to the kitchen to finish packing three different lunches and get ready to prepare three different breakfasts.

After a few minutes, the 5th grader comes down wearing her sister’s old shoes. I’m grateful. She’s grateful. We’ll all get through the day. Birds start singing. Life is good again. We had a problem. We solved it. And I have the whole day to buy my daughter new shoes.

Until…

The 7th grader comes down. She’s huffing. She’s puffing. It might have been gypcrete dust from the renovation, but I thought I saw smoke from her ears.

And she’s wearing flip-flops.

She throws out another problem to the universe. Something about getting detention because her sister took her shoes. My ears couldn’t hear her from all the complaining.

After stopping the world from spinning out of control again, I reminded her that THE-SHOES-ARE-THE-SAME! Remember? Same brand. Same style. Same size. Different color.

The response came from her little voice, as serious as could be. But it was also straight out of the “So you want to argue but your argument doesn’t make any sense” manual.

She picked up the shoe box and said, “Oh! I see. These are from Kohl’s. My old ones are from Famous Footwear. Kohl’s makes the sizes different.”

Now, I had this moment when I wondered if she thought I was that stupid or if I completely missed something somewhere in her early childhood. The all-important moment where kids are taught that Quaker granola bars are the same whether they are bought from Safeway, Kroger, or Costco. Did I miss that moment in my own daughter’s life? Did she really think the Skechers sold at Kohl’s were different than the Skechers sold at Famous Footwear? Or did she believe I am stupid?

I asked her to go back upstairs, bring her brand new pretty shoes down and try them on for me. Again, I’m a solution mom. If they don’t fit, I need them back so I can return them. And I need to know where they don’t fit. Did she say they were too big?

After quite the show, she goes upstairs to get the new shoes.

Now go back and bring socks downstairs, too, please.

She plops herself down on the dusty concrete floor and proceeds to put on one sock as if she’s a robot and needs to accentuate every move to make it perfect. Once the shoe is on, she’s decided she’s not going to stand up so I can feel her toes or place my fingers in the perceived football field of wasted space between her heel and the back of the shoe. Instead, she kicks her foot much like she did when she was two years old. While kicking her foot around, she talks about how big they are. They are so big, I’m expecting them to come flying off her foot and beam me in the head. But the shoe doesn’t budge. From where I stood watching the Monday morning display, the shoe seemed to fit rather nicely.

So I did what every good mother does.

I dropped the conversation.

She won.

I looked at her little sister and asked her to take off her sister’s old shoes. Before she could complain about not having shoes for PE, I put my finger up in a ‘wait, I have the perfect plan’ motherly way.

I told my oldest daughter to take off the one new shoe she’d managed to put on but wouldn’t let me view.

And I switched them.

To my 5th grader I said, “Congratulations, you have new shoes.”

To my 7th grader, I said, “Take your old shoes back. When they no longer fit, let me know.”

Problem solved.

Parenting should be this easy all the time.

The arguments before all of this parenting enlightening occurred should never have happened.

There were four shoes. All the same size. All the same brand. I’m sure you remember. And there were four feet, also the same size, all needing shoes.

Why must our children challenge us so….on a Monday?

Before coffee.

Momentum…and free Kindle run results

It doesn’t take a hard push to get a ball to roll downhill. It also doesn’t take a hard stop to get a ball on flat ground to stop moving altogether.

The past six months have been tough for me. It only took a few errors on my new release to drop me to the ground. Honestly and humbly I admit with all the reads, rereads, and editing I still found errors in my newest novel. The cloud I’d ridden seemed to pour rain, sleet, and hail dissipating as it dropped me from the sky. What was quite frustrating for me was some of these errors were not found in my original paperback proof. Which may have meant we pulled an old file when fixing some errors or which meant something else I didn’t understand. I had no idea what happened. But I was so incredibly disappointed. I am a perfectionist. I don’t expect perfection from anyone other than myself. And with high anxiety living in my core each day, it was a tough blow for me to accept I’d made errors. But I am also humble and willing to face the music.

Only, my instrument felt broken. My daughter had been bullied at school again. I decided I was going to write the story parents need to read. The story so many children in schools face today. Then I was asked to write a different version. I outlined, I plotted, I sank deeper. I needed a lift, but I was focused on failure. I’d failed with the release of my novel because I released it with errors I didn’t know existed. I, a mother who would do anything for any child, couldn’t fix my daughter. I couldn’t make people like her. I couldn’t make people understand her quirkiness. I couldn’t even get anyone to appreciate her differences. And I also couldn’t get the schools to care enough to make big but simple changes. Each day for several months, I sat in my car in the afternoon pick-up line at two schools, and I read 34 Seconds out loud to find errors. There were truly only a few. A few which still sucked my will to get fixes done and published.

In the spring, I finished my new edits, sent them in and fixed my ebook and paperback documents with the help of a fabulous formatter who never made me feel less than human for admitting I’d made mistakes.

But it wasn’t until we decided as a family we were willing to walk away from our home before I began to feel better. From our home. From friends and family. To give our daughter a chance to be loved and accepted, we decided to move to another state. Another school district. Another neighborhood. More options. More opportunity. The day we decided to change out lives, a new light shined in my soul. I couldn’t wait to get back to projects I’d started and left unfinished. I couldn’t wait to write more. I couldn’t wait to tell the world about 34 Seconds again. I could forgive myself for being human. I could walk away from my mistakes. And oddly enough, I found it easier to walk away from people we know who had been hurting our children with hurtful words and physical actions. People I could no longer talk to because they never said sorry to us. I could even forgive, knowing we all had a new light shining inside us all.

 

This past week, I decided to celebrate my acceptance of myself, of my forgiveness, and run a freebie on Kindle for my novel. I felt I’d fixed what needed fixing…and don’t get me wrong, these errors were rather simple, like the word ‘to’ missing within a sentence, the word ‘silent’ used instead of ‘silence.’ And they were few. But I also added or deleted a few things while I was making fixes, but nothing which changes Nikki’s story.

So I thought I would have fifty or so books downloaded. And I hoped maybe of those fifty maybe five people would read it, leave an honest review, I’d learn something new about my writing and move forward. I wanted to celebrate me by getting my words out again. I wanted to tell people I’ve been rather silent about this book I wrote, but here it is. You can have it.

What I didn’t know was on the first day forty-eight would be downloaded.

Forty-eight.

I scheduled a five-day free run. At first, I wondered if I should have only done one or two days. Kindle gives us authors enrolled in a certain program five-day runs every 90 days our books are in the program. I had scheduled all five of my days in one run. My reason was because my third 90-day run in this KDP (meaning it’s a Kindle only exclusive novel) is up at the end of June, and I thought I might try to get it out to other venues this summer.

Anyway, I really thought on day one I’d hit what I thought I may get for all five days and my other days would end up being wasted. I’ve been swamped. I didn’t really advertise this free run. I didn’t contact any bloggers to help me. I didn’t ask for reviews or contacts. I posted on my Facebook pages, I have two. And I posted on Twitter. On day two, trying not to be annoying to those who see me daily, I posted in a few places. I tried not to include links everywhere. That can be annoying. However, if I had friends in multiple groups and on my Facebook page, some of my friends may have seen more than one or two posts at once coming from my page and a Kindle Free Group. But my goal here was to quietly get the word out, get friends to share with their friends, and not annoy folks by blasting a picture of my cover all over their feeds.

On day two, sixty-nine units were downloaded on Kindle for free. Wow, I thought.

On day three, fifty-nine were downloaded. Still I was trying very hard not to post too much about it, and I started thinking the downloads peaked on day two, I should have run a three-day free run. I will do it again one day, so I’m trying to learn from my own process. What works and what doesn’t.

Day four was a Friday.  And it was the best of the first four days. Eighty-one units were downloaded. At this point, I was tracking where my novel was on the Top 100 list of free books on Kindle. Without sharing the link, I’d share a photo of where the book was. That day, mine was rising close to Colleen Hoover’s Finding Cinderella. There was a point when mine passed hers and I gave myself a silent high five. About a second later, I reminded myself Finding Cinderella was a novella about two and a half years old and might have even been free from the get-go. I read it when it was released in one sitting with two cups of coffee. So there I was laughing because I was proud my book had passed a novella which had probably been housed on that same list for years. For years. Which means people download volumes of that novella daily. Hey,  I was still proud.

By the time I went to bed Friday night, there had been 258 downloads over the four days. I was very surprised. No, I was actually shocked.

Saturday I woke thinking about the weekend and how I might expect a few downloads but having the promotion end on a Saturday probably wasn’t a great idea. I imagine people sitting at their desks during the week downloading free books. But on the weekends, I am certain those people are hiking, shopping, living, or at least reading their weekly finds from their work weeks.

A funny thing happened on Kindle that day. My charting page was only set to show up to June 10th. Every few hours I’d refresh the page to see if I had any downloads only to see nothing new. It was noon before I realized I hadn’t been looking at Saturday’s date, June 11th. Once I fixed the settings, I noticed about sixty copies had been downloaded. Laughing at myself, I went on with my day.

Sometime on Saturday 34 Seconds peaked at #27, #37, and #37 on the Top 100 Free list in Romance, Contemporary Fiction, and Women’s Fiction respectively. I don’t even know where Colleen Hoover’s two and a half year old novella was at that point. I was proud. I shared a few pictures, laughing at my guitar cover mixed up with covers of people without shirts and later mixed up with people who were clothed. I was simply happy.

When I woke on Sunday morning, I learned 246 copies were downloaded on Saturday.

When I started this free five-day run, I questioned whether I’d wasted five days. When I failed to do any upfront promotions, I wondered if it would do anything for the book. By the end of the five days, 503 had been downloaded. Five hundred and three copies of my novel are out into the world. My original hope was to have fifty out there and hope for ten percent of those people to review….which is a very high hope. Now if I am lucky enough to get that ten percent review my novel, I could have over fifty reviews. It’s still a high hope.

More importantly, it’s built my momentum. Not only can I accept that I am only human, I can also believe in humanity.

It’s truly been a rough six months for me. But this week we start our new beginnings. We close on our new home in Arizona this week. And there are over five hundred copies of my novel sitting out into the world. There is even a copy in India. Some will read it. Some won’t. I’ve picked up several novels I haven’t read yet. Some I’ll never read. It’s the nature of being human. Sometimes we support with numbers. Sometimes we support with reviews. Sometimes we support with coffee and a hug. This weekend I felt a hug from every person who took the time to click.

Thank you.

For being here. For being you. Thank you!