Life is never simple. There’s an understatement, right? This past month, and especially this past week have been extremely difficult for me. I’m going to explain why, and tell you what I’m going to do about it, but first, I need to tell you the whole story, from the beginning. ‘Cause I’m like that, and because it sets the stage for what comes next.
Okay, here goes.
How It All Started
My Dream – When I was nine or ten years old I had a dream that was unimaginably vivid. Short synopsis – A group of kids, myself included, found a hollow mountain and set about making it a safe place for the coming apocalypse.
What can I say? I grew up during the tail end of the Cold War.
The dream stayed with me for years and I probably wrote at least part of it down…somewhere. I know that I spent hours drawing schematics on graph paper of the layout of the Great Cavern. The details were meticulous, right down to the cabins (and layouts within) for the kids and the fields of crops that were planted underneath the artificial lights high up, hidden behind a marvel of engineered fake blue sky and clouds.
That story, like many others started and stopped, was never finished. I was delighted, however, in reading The City of Ember, which in many ways reminded me so much of this place I had dreamed of so long ago.
That dream is the first one that I can truly identify as the beginning of my fiction writing interests. It was a time right at the advent of personal computing – you know, when they required significant effort and knowledge of word processing, just to write anything, much less save it.
Writing in High School – I was incredibly lucky in high school. First off, I was damned lucky to have a dad who insisted on private schools instead of public. I doubt I would have ever had the chances, much less the attention I so desperately needed, in a public school. But it was probably my own unending whining and complaining about the boring grammar exercises that finally broke the back of the already informal system I was learning in. I was given the greatest gift I could have ever asked for – each day, instead of completing a simple, yet boring grammar assignment – I was instead allowed to write. Whatever my heart desired – poetry, an essay, an ongoing story…whatever I liked.
Along the way I learned the basic concepts that many do not – the structure of a paragraph (when to end it, namely), how to construct a conversation, and so much more. I learned by doing, which has always been the most effective way to learn for me. To say that I was lucky, and that I had a chance to truly fly, is an understatement. I will never forget the creative flow that my schooling allowed me to run with for three full years.
The Long Silence – I left home far too early, a month shy of my 17th birthday. Freedom in writing hadn’t been enough, and I screwed up in school, and at home, and ended up running away and not finishing high school. I got married, had a baby at 18, and dabbled a little with writing here and there, but did little of it for years. It is something I will always regret and wonder – if I had kept writing then, where would I be now?
I soon divorced and, as a single mom, my time was spent struggling to make ends meet, and attempting to get some college under my belt.
An Early Mid-Life Crisis – In 2005, at the age of 35, I stood up abruptly in the middle of an office meeting and said, “I’m sorry, I quit.” I went back home, realized I had a mortgage and bills to pay and promptly freaked out. A trip to the library, a stack of business books, a reasonable plan of action a week later, and I worked it all out – I would start my own business and go back to college for my Bachelor’s degree.
I had spent nearly two decades working in offices in jobs I hated. Now was my chance to do something different with my life.
I decided on a Psychology major and a minor in Creative Writing. When someone asked me why I chose those I said, with a smile, “Delaying tactic. I figure I can justify delaying and not writing the GAN (Great American Novel) until I’ve at least managed to get a minor in the subject.”
And with that understanding of my own psyche firmly in my grasp I dedicated myself to school and building my cleaning business…for all of four months.
Learning that I had Daughter #2 on the way (surprise, surprise, those eggs weren’t that old!) I realized that I did not want her in daycare – I wanted to be there with her, day in and day out. School was put on indefinite hold, and Dave and I married a few months before Emily was born.
I wouldn’t have it any other way – I have a wonderful husband and now two amazing daughters, ages 23 and 5 years of age. I count myself incredibly lucky. In no small part, having Emily has allowed me to pursue my writing even more than before. I am challenged each day to write in the early morning hours when the house is quiet and my daughter sleeps.
Mid-Life Crisis #2 – The cleaning biz has always been a “until something better comes along” kind of situation. I do my absolute level best at the business, and give my clients the service that I would want, but my heart lies in my writing. Starting about fifteen years ago, I began writing again. Mainly in spurts, filled with long silences in between, as I struggled with issues of self-esteem and questions about the salable nature of said writing. Since Emily has been born, however, I have eagerly incorporated writing into my daily activities.
In December 2010, I was made painfully aware of my own mortality by the abrupt loss of a good friend.
Nina and I had our girls in common – the firstborn ones, that is. Best friends through grammar, middle and even high school, our daughters were linked through friendship and origins (they had both moved from California to Missouri within months of each other). And when I became pregnant in 2006, Nina followed me by only a few weeks – giving birth to her second child as well. Her son Lucas is just six weeks younger than Emily. Losing Nina, who I had gone through some of the darkest days of my life with just eight years before, was devastating. I became painfully aware that life is so uncertain, so fraught with unforeseen events, that we truly cannot know the hour of our death.
Losing her also reminded me that the clock was ticking – I was 40 years old. I looked back at the last 40 years and wondered where they had gone – marveled at how quickly they had passed, and feared how quickly the next 40 might fly by.
I had self-published an organizing book Get Organized, Stay Organized and had a list of at least a dozen other books, along with notes and started manuscripts. It was time to get cracking.
Part of me was terrified as well, suddenly, that I would die of a heart attack, like Nina had. I asked Dave to build me a ‘treadmill desk’, which he did, and we hooked up the laptop with a keyboard and mouse to it so I could exercise and write/surf the net at the same time. It was, after all, the only way I would voluntarily exercise at all.
It was there that I had an epiphany – I had been working my way towards the goal for years, that of being a writer, but I still needed to make a presence for myself. How could I, a) prove that I could write, every day, day in and day out, and b) get my name out into the world for people to recognize?
Start a blog, of course. In fact, why not start two?
So I did. And here you are, looking at one or the other of them. Lucky, lucky you! And for nearly a year now, I have been blogging professionally and slowly my readership has grown.
Every weekday I write a post (okay, so I’ve missed a few days here and there) and every day more people than I know personally or talk to in a month come and read what I have written. In the case of The Homeschool Advocate – Of the nearly 800 visitors to my site, 62% of you return day after day. In the case of The Deadly Nightshade – Of the 1,100 of you who have visited in the past month, 75% of you return to read the next day’s post.
Thank you, it means a lot. And a super big thank you to those of you who have commented or sent me emails. Knowing my words are going out there into the great beyond and being received with thought and discussion means more to me than you can ever know.
I have, over the past year, proved to myself that yes, I can write daily. That I have plenty to say (as if there was any fear of that not being true!), and that there are those who are interested in reading what I have to say. From a non-fiction point of view, I’ve done relatively well with these blogs. It was the boost in self-esteem I needed, and my fiction writing had begun to take off as well. War’s End was completed last September and I self-published it as well and got to work on the sequel that would finish the series.
I had also fleshed out a twelve-book series that I am calling the Chronicles of Liv Rowan and another sci-fi series within the same universe called Plague Tales or Gliese 581 (depending on my mood at the moment).
Everything came to a screeching halt, however…
I Think Something is Wrong – One month ago everything was fine. I walked away from my computer to go play a game with Emily and spend some time working on her reading skills. I came back to my computer displaying the black screen of death. It used to be a blue screen, but it looks as if they have ‘improved’ on the design – black is certainly considered an inopportune color. When Dave got home from work I said, “Please come take a look at my computer, something looks very wrong with it.”
Your C Drive is Dead – An hour later, my husband uttered the words that struck my heart with dread. “It looks like the c drive is dead.” All of my writing, all of my business contacts, all of my files, were directly under the c drive in a folder labeled C’s Files. I asked him to locate our backups, and he got to work trying to find them.
It turned out that the ‘auto backups’ had apparently only been for financial files. And they hadn’t done anything ‘automatically’ in well over a year. And that was for some business finance files, NOT our main finances.
“We’ll get this to someone who does recoveries, we’ll fix this.” Dave assured me as my heart plummeted. I had not thought to save my files on a thumb drive – and in fact the only things on a thumb drive were some Powerpoints from several classes I teach locally.
A few days later we had someone located in St. Louis, and we sent the drive off to them.
We Found Your Files (or Maybe NOT) – As I struggled to be patient, we were receiving regular updates. The drive motor was still functioning, so they had begun extracting the data slowly. Shortly before they had finished, the motor seized and the drive had to be taken to a ‘clean room’ for final extraction.
The list of files was long and I did not have access to it until this past Monday. Paging through it my anxiety levels spiked…none of my files were in the list. The entire folder, C’s Files, was missing from the list. Everything I have worked on for the past fifteen years – every letter I have written, every story I have thought up, every business plan I have written, EVERYTHING, is gone.
The payment issued and now received by the recovery team, having spent over $800 on recovery of what looks like five years worth of photos and nothing else, I am beyond devastated.
I’ve spent the past few days in a numb, depressed haze. To date, I’ve considered:
- Never writing again
- Wiping out my bank account to fly me and the kiddo out to Panama for a week and see my dad and get away from it all
- Curl up and die
- Get in the car and start driving to points unknown with no plan
- Never speak again to anyone
It’s been an absolutely, hands-down, horrible week.
We explained the location of the files to the recovery people and asked them to take another look. I honestly don’t know enough about the way these things work to hold out any hope at all. And once something is taken into a clean room, can anyone else look at it?
I would pay twice that amount, money that I don’t have, go willingly back into debt, just to have my data back. Because its more than just my data, it’s a huge part of my life and existence for the past fifteen years in those files. My hopes, my dreams, my stories, my life…
What Happens Now
SRS feed – If it isn’t up now, it will be soon on all of my main sites – TDN, HA, and my author website. If you connect yourself to the RSS feed, it will let you know when I have updated any of the sites and usually send you the post in text format.
No more regular posts – I’ve proved to myself that I can do this. I can write. That may be an “oh duh” to all of you out there, but I’ve struggled for a very long time to believe in myself and continue to move forward with this dream of mine.
To that end, I will not be making regular weekday posts any longer. I woke up from a dream yesterday morning and recognized that I am burning the candle on both ends, running to keep up, and missing out on the meat of it.
If I want to see my books in print – I must write them. And that means…
Re-Focus on My Fiction Writing – In the end, you must return to the beginning. Think of infinity, the sideways 8, everything returns to what it was eventually, and so shall I. It began over thirty years ago with a dream and consumed my thoughts for years afterwards.
I have more stories within me than I can tell in one lifetime – and I’ve only got 40+ years to do it. So that’s what I need to focus on. In one hundred years my blogs will have disappeared from the blog-sphere, but perhaps, just perhaps, my books will remain.
IF I write them.
And IF you and others buy them and read them.
I’ll still be writing about things around here, just on a more consolidated, more content-filled basis. After all, I’ve got a rabbit hutch to build, and spring planting to get done in a month or three. I’ve got a child who is being homeschooled and challenges me to be a better mom and learning facilitator each day.
So while you may not see posts every weekday, Monday through Friday, I promise you I will be around and making it worth your time to stop by and check in on this site.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll get cracking and end up on the New York Times bestseller list and you can say that you knew me ‘way back then’.
Cheers everybody. And thank you, for reading this.