Writing My Novel: Hello and goodbye!

How the novel's going, what I've been up to, and where I'm headed.

Hello Book Friends,

It’s always awkward to start a newsletter or blog post after you’ve disappeared for an entire season, isn’t it? I actually had not planned to take time off, and certainly not this much of it. Things just got to a point where I needed all my energy and brain power just to cope with Life in 2020. I also felt like there was too much noise in the world and I didn’t want to add to it unless I had something really constructive or encouraging to say, which, I did not. So I felt it best to withdraw and stay silent for a while, which turned out to be a good long while, to give myself space to process everything that’s happening and the state of everything and sort out what I think and how to live and be in this perpetually abnormal new normal.

I’m not quite there yet. But it’s August now, and I didn’t want to leave y’all hanging any longer. I’m still alive, we haven’t (so far) been hit with the big C, and I’m working on Revolution in fits and starts. So let’s get into it:

How the Novel is Going

This week I passed 60,000 words. Considering how my last update back in… May? was to say I’d hit 50,000, that should give you an idea of how slowly things are going, which is why I pushed back the launch date from this month to next month, and that next month launch date is tentative. If I’m being realistic, we’re probably looking at an October release, unless I do a half-tuckused job on editing, which I won’t do.

Part of why it’s going so slowly is that I’m into the third act and everything is Big Action, which is intimidating and the hardest thing for me to write, especially since I’m feeling pressure to make the action in this book feel particularly epic. My favorite thing is the character moments and the conversations, and I’m still weaving those in where I can. At any rate, it’s coming along. For those of you who pre-ordered and were anticipating getting to read it this month, I’m really sorry for the delay, especially in light of the fact that so many things are getting delayed this year. Thank you for hanging in there with me.

The biggest reason why this novel’s taking so long is that for about six weeks there when everything was on fire I lost all desire to write. Not just that—I actually lost all desire to be a writer. The extremity of the cancel culture we were seeing made me want to quit the author life altogether. The world, and publishing, were both so different when I first dreamed of becoming an author. This—having to spend more time hustling to attract readers and sell books than I do writing them, having to put myself out there all over social media where the slightest hint of “wrongthink” could get me the Internet equivalent of tarred and feathered (and being Christian and conservatarian and patriotic, probably a lot of what I think and believe is wrong according to our current culture)—is not what I signed up for.

I used to get frustrated by the minuscule size of my reader base, but now I see it as a blessing. I really have no desire to have any part of the public spotlight shined on me, and if I’m going to go on being an author, I’m content to toil away in obscurity and have my books be hidden gems waiting to be discovered by the sorts of people who get my particular brand of storytelling. And I am going to continue, because as much as I’m struggling to wrap up this series, I’m still really excited to get going on the next one, to the point that I can’t not write it and put it out there. But even if I wasn’t, I’m determined not to leave this current series unfinished.

How Life is Going

It’s been an interesting summer, to be sure. I’ve been taking an extended break from social media and really limiting my exposure to news headlines, checking in a few times a week just to stay in the loop. Where we live is pretty isolated, and we only go into town about once a month for groceries. We did have some visitors a couple of weeks ago, and I was relieved to discover that our social skills haven’t completely withered away from lack of use.

My husband and I have both been using all our extra time to really delve deep into Bible study, and I have to tell you, intense Bible study every day for weeks on end is truly transformative. I think there’s no way you can do that and not be changed, and I have been. My priorities have shifted big time, and so have my interests, and I’ve gotten a lot of clarity on what my theological and doctrinal stances are, and why. I’ve also changed my mind about some things I used to think were great, which I’ll probably blog about at some point in the future.

The best part is that in spite of everything that’s going on I haven’t had any anxiety. I do feel at times like I’m cycling through the stages of grief, but I haven’t fallen into depression. Instead, I actually have a lot of peace, and hope. It’s nice.

Speaking of grief, though, it’s not just the way the world is headed that’s making me so sad. If you’ve followed me for the last few years, you know that our Chihuahua, Pete, was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension in fall of 2017. At that time he was given a prognosis of “weeks to months.” Here we are three years later, and as I type this he’s in my lap, licking my arm like it’s going out of style. But his condition has been growing steadily worse. So far, his good days still outnumber his bad days by a wide margin, but the bad days are getting worse and closing in. We’ve had to put him on Lasix, which is helping to relieve the congestion and make it easier for him to breathe, but it’s also bad for his kidneys. I think we might have reached the tipping point where we need to focus on improving his quality of life over trying to extend his longevity. We’re beginning to fear that that initial prognosis is catching up to him, and our time with him is growing short. Anticipatory grief is real, y’all, and it sucks. We’re not ready to tell our baby puppy man goodbye.

How the Future Looks

I’ve been trying to make myself sit down and write this newsletter for weeks. The main reason I’ve kept putting it off is that I’ve been dithering on whether I want to pick it back up and continue, or officially put it on hiatus. But after a lot of thinking and praying about the shape my author life and platform need to take, I’ve decided to cancel this allegedly weekly newsletter and only send out big news and new release announcements from now on. So this is going to be the last issue of Echoes In the Dark / of Accountability / Writing My Novel or whatever it’s called now.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be paring my author platform down to the bare bones — just my website, and my mailing list, and probably my Facebook page (I just clicked that link to make sure it works. When did Facebook start looking like Twitter?).

Once this novel is off my plate and we no longer have to spend so much of our time mowing our huge yard, I may go back to blogging. I’ve been thinking a lot about starting a blog to talk about the Bible and theology, but I’m still praying about that, and deciding where it needs to go. That feeds into the decision to curtail this newsletter, though. I’ve been writing all these years for a secular audience and I know a lot of y’all don’t want to hear about any Jesus stuff, and I try to respect that. But I’ve come to a place where my faith and spirituality is so integral to who I am and everything about my life, that I can’t keep compartmentalizing it. At least if I’m blogging you can decide whether to come hang out with me, instead of me shoving stuff into your inbox.

I’ve got a couple of other things in the idea pipeline, too, which may or may not include a separate blog about angels and the supernatural to tie into my next series, and maybe finally pursuing my secondary dream of selling vintage and handmade jewelry. If any of those are things you’d like to be kept in the loop on, either reply to this e-mail or drop a comment to let me know, and I’ll be sure to notify you if/when they get off the ground.

I sincerely hope everyone reading this is doing well. The next time you hear from me in this space, I’ll have actual book news for you.

Love and peace,

Jean ♥

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