A Much-Needed Update

I kind of disappeared from the internet and real life during the quarantine. For that I apologize. Here’s pretty much everything noteworthy that happened during the month of April:

I was given an office phone and asked to work from home. It was an interesting time. I got a taste of the stay-at-home mom life and it was pretty great, I’m not going to lie. There were times when I’d get frustrated or depressed about the fact that I couldn’t go anywhere. It’s officially summer in Phoenix which discouraged me from taking very many walks with Bennett. But, for the most part, I really enjoyed spending all that time with my son. I witnessed several firsts that I otherwise might’ve missed if I’d had to keep going into the office everyday.

He colored for the first time. It was a bunch of squiggles with an orange colored pencil but it was beautiful to me. He started pointing at things, as if inquiring after them. Then he’d sit there and listen to me explain what they were. He started handing me books and toys on a regular basis and waiting expectantly for me to do something with them. He started standing on his own. He’s still not confident enough to take any steps, but we’ll get there. He’s growing so fast and learning so much. It’s a treat to witness.


 
 

Staying home also allowed me to rest. (For those of you who don’t know, I’m pregnant again. It’s a little ahead of schedule but we’re still excited and more than ready to meet our little girl!) My baby bump turned into a mountain seemingly overnight, sapping my strength and slowing me down considerably. Our baby girl is healthy and strong, though. There’s much to be thankful for.

Over the weekend, I celebrated a birthday and my very first Mother’s Day, which was an emotional time for me. Businesses are slowly starting to open up here but we didn’t want to brave the crowds of people so my husband and I had quiet celebrations at home. May is a big month for us as far as celebrations go. Bennett’s first birthday is on the 18th and our five year wedding anniversary is on the 29th! Hopefully by then it’ll be safer to venture out into the world.

Permission has been granted for some businesses to start opening again. Churches will be allowed to open later in the summer so the office is preparing. I’ll be returning to work part-time. It’s going to be an adjustment for both me and Bennett, but we’ll endure. Besides, all too soon it’ll be time to go on maternity leave!

The Andromeda’s Ghost is on NetGalley and, according to my publisher, it’s getting a good reception from librarians, retailers, journalists, trade reviewers, and book bloggers. I was told the book would be available for pre-order early in June and is all set to be published on July 16!

BHC Press is already preparing the publication schedule for 2021. I submitted the second book in The Andromeda Chronicles, The Andromeda’s Captain, so they could add it to the line up. It’s crazy to think that another one of my books could be coming out this time next year, but that’s totally a possibility!

In other news, deals have been made and the plan has been set in motion so that the books I publish through BHC Press will be translated into different languages! More news on that later.


My big project during the quarantine was finishing my edits for Death’s Curses and getting all the necessary documents ready to submit to BHC Press. It took a lot longer than I care to admit (escaping from distractions at home proved to be more difficult than I thought!) but at last it’s done. The query letter, book description, synopsis, and first six chapters have been submitted for their consideration. It can take 6-8 weeks for them to get to the documents, review everything, and make a decision what with the enormous amount of submissions they get every day. I’ll be moving onto other projects to keep busy while I wait to hear back from them but, for right now, I’m celebrating.


There’s still the possibility of another wave of the Coronavirus hitting us. Stay safe and brave, you guys.

Cover Reveal for The Andromeda’s Ghost

Super stoked to announce that my new adult science fiction/fantasy book has a cover! I got the manuscript back from BHC Press’s editor earlier this month along with some notes and corrections. After two weeks of combing through it myself, I’ve deemed it to be as perfect as it can be. I’ve sent it back to my publisher for formatting. Then it’ll be sent out to reviewers! And once those reviews get in, it’ll be publication time!

The Andromeda’s Ghost is scheduled to be published in July 2020. This is the first book in The Andromeda Chronicles, which will be a trilogy. It’ll be available in ebook, paperback, and hardcover! For more details, feel free to visit the book’s page on BHC Press’ website.

 

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A Good Mom

It’s a late night and an early morning.

It’s a sleepy smile, a drool-covered chin, a runny nose.

Time for play?

How about a walk?

Anything for you, baby.

It’s dinner time, bath time, and off to bed with you, mister.

Yes, you are tired. Don’t give me that look.

It’s having to sit perfectly still while baby screams on a monitor screen.

Quietly fuming. Or privately aching.

Sometimes both.

I’ve done everything I can think of.

Why is he still crying?

Does this mean I’m not a good mom?

It’s a house that’s always half dirty.

Laundry mostly done. Clean. Folded. Sitting in baskets all over the living room.

It’s meal planning. All day. Every day.

It’s checking the heater several times before bed, obsessing about baby’s comfort.

It’s cheers and tears after every milestone reached.

I’m so glad he’s growing up at a normal pace…

But why can’t he stay little forever?

“Thank God he can’t stay little forever!” I think moments later.

It’s worrying about his future.

It’s beating myself up after every little failure.

It’s praying, “Oh, God, please help me be a good mom.”

Over and over and over again.

It’s keep to the schedule at all costs. Until baby changes it.

He never sleeps in this late. Is he still alive?

Oh, sorry, baby. Didn’t mean to scare you. Shh. Go back to sleep.

No? Okay. I guess it’s breakfast time now…

It’s panicking when he gets sick.

It’s wiping food off my face. Food that’s not mine.

It’s rocking and crying softly. Overwhelmed by the depth of my love for this baby.

It’s coming this close to cursing at baby. Then actually cursing at baby.

Then feeling extremely guilty for cursing at baby.

It’s falling asleep on the couch with baby, waking every time he moves.

It’s melting whenever I make him giggle.

It’s raging war against the mosquito that dared to bite my baby.

I come home after a long day at work and there he is, crawling toward me at full speed.

Does this mean I’m a good mom?

“You are,” says his grandma.

“You are,” says his aunt.

“You are,” says his father.

On this long, winding road we call motherhood, I struggle to believe sometimes.

It’s looking at a positive pregnancy test.

Happy. Exhausted. Terrified.

Can I do this?

My heart is big enough for both of you, but is my spirit strong enough?

Can I still be a good mom if there’s two?

Only time will tell.

The Best Cat in the World

This is Cowboy. As the title of this post might suggest, he’s the best cat in the world.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Cats are evil, right? They hide under the bed when visitors come. They hiss and scratch if you get too close. They sit on your keyboard or book and refuse to move. They knock things off your dresser for no reason. They camp outside your bedroom window and sing at three in the morning or decide to make your front porch their litter box. They leave little paw prints on your car. They suffocate babies. Etc, etc, etc.

Most of the people I’ve met have had horrible experiences with cats. I can relate; I had some pretty crazy cats for pets when I was growing up. But Cowboy is unlike any other cat I’ve ever met. In fact, he isn’t really a cat; more like an old dog trapped in a cat’s body.

He does three things; sleep, eat, and poop. If his litter box is too full, he’ll sit outside the laundry room door (that’s where the littler box is kept) and meow until we change the litter. If his bowl is empty, he’ll do the same. If he wants milk, he’ll follow us into the kitchen and sit by the fridge to meow until we comply. Otherwise, he’ll wait until we sit down somewhere and cozy up next to us (or between us) to take a nap. He’ll fall asleep touching us somehow (with his chin on a shoulder, or his paw on a wrist, or a leg thrown over one of our legs). Like he’s claiming us as his.

When visitors come, he jumps down from the couch and wanders over to sniff their feet. If anyone sits on the couch, he climbs into their lap. He will sit there and let you pet him for as long as you want. He’ll purr and drool and look up at you like you’re his best friend. Even if it’s the first time you’ve met.

If there are any discarded shoes or clothes on the floor, he’ll sit or lay on them. If it belongs to my husband, Cowboy will rub his face all over it. He’ll ask to taste whatever crunchy, salty treat you’re snacking on by pawing at your hand and purring. (His favorites are Cheese Puffs, Wheat Thins, Doritos, and tortillas.)

He used to sleep in my husband’s bed before we got married. He still tries to sneak into our bed when I’m not looking. He’ll look up at me innocently when I catch him lying on my side of the bed. It’s hard to be mad at him, even if he does leave bright orange hair on the sheets.

He loves to sleep in the sun. He’d lay outside in the grass all day if we’d let him. Only problem is, he loves to eat the grass too. Then he’ll come inside and promptly throw up on the carpet. So he lays down by the sliding glass door and looks out into the sunlit backyard instead, waiting for his opportunity to sneak out. He’s big but he can move fast when he wants to. He’ll eat and throw up flowers too. When my husband gets me roses for my birthday or our anniversary, we have to put them somewhere up high where he can’t reach them. It’s kind of funny.

Cowboy’s one flaw? He doesn’t have the patience for small children. He has bitten each of our nephews at least once. He didn’t like our son when we first brought Bennett home from the hospital. He avoided the baby whenever he could and turned his back on Bennett if they were sharing close quarters. But, as you will see in the pictures below, Cowboy has grown accustomed to Bennett. Might even like the boy now.

 

He’s technically my husband’s cat, has been for fifteen years. But when we started dating, Cowboy and I had an almost instant connection. Even though my husband started snuggling with me more than his cat, Cowboy still loved me. Even though I kicked him out of our marriage bed, Cowboy was big enough to forgive me. Even when I put him on a diet, Cowboy refused to disown me. We’re so close, in fact, that we made a pact: he was going to live forever. Our kids were going to grow up loving him as much as I did. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Cowboy took our pact very seriously. He lost weight, he held onto his zen-like attitude despite how many times our dog tried to annoy him, he kept sleeping a ton, and exercised by jumping up and down from the bathroom counter to eat his meals.

Then, about three weeks ago, we discovered Cowboy had a limp. We thought maybe he’d hurt himself jumping down from the bathroom counter so we put his food on the floor and made sure the dog didn’t go anywhere near it. But he didn’t get better. We took him to the vet, who summarized it was a sprain of some kind. He gave Cowboy a steroid shot to help with the swelling (that was fun…not), and gave us additional medication to force-feed him. Even after we ran out of that medication, Cowboy’s limp persisted. In fact, it got worse. A growth appeared seemingly overnight on his bad leg, the one he’d been babying this whole time. His appetite decreased. Drastically. It became harder and harder for him to climb into his litter box. Then he gave up trying to use the litter box altogether. Yesterday, when he hadn’t moved from his spot even to relieve himself, my husband and I looked at each other. And decided it was time to say goodbye.

I’m tearing up as I write this. I can’t believe it. I never thought I’d become so attached to a pet. He’s just a cat, right? Wrong. He’s been there since my husband and I started dating. He has been sitting next to us on the couch since we came back from our honeymoon. When we wake up in the morning, he greets us. He sits on the carpet and keeps me company while I’m getting ready for the day. When we come home from work, he’s there. When we go to sleep, he tries so hard to join us. When we go out of town, he stress-eats until we come back and then cries with joy when we walk through the door. He’s our furry roommate. He loves us and we love him. He tried so hard to live forever, just like I asked. But his body has given up on him. We can’t let him keep going like this.

The appointment has been set for this evening. Isn’t that horrible? I had to call the vet to ask if we could schedule a time to put our beloved Cowboy to sleep. Permanently. My husband says it hasn’t hit him yet, but when it does it’ll hit him hard. My heart is heavy. I’ve been mourning all week. I don’t want this to be the last time we see Cowboy. For the first time ever, I find myself hoping animals go to heaven. Whether it’s true or not, I want to believe he’ll end up there. I want to believe he’ll find the mansion that’s been made for us, jump up on the couch, settle into his favorite spot right up against the armrest, and wait for us. It might sound silly, but that’s how much I love this stinkin’ cat.

Maybe someday we’ll get another cat, but I’m pretty sure Cowboy has ruined cats for us forever. After all, what feline could compare to the best cat in the world?

Goodbye, old friend. Don’t tell the dog, but I love you more than any other pet I’ve had. Keep that heavenly couch warm for us. We’ll see you again soon.

Surprise!

I know I’m late in posting something new on here but I have a really good excuse, I promise.

May 18. 4:00AM. I was suddenly wide awake. Then I felt and heard a distinct pop, kind of like the sound you hear when you pop a bubble in your chewing gum. My coworker had described this to me when she told me about the time her water broke so I carefully got out of bed and made my way to the bathroom. No sooner had my feet touched the tile than water began to rush down my legs.

“Hey, babe?” I squeaked, slapping on the lights.

My husband sat bolt upright in bed. “What? What’s wrong?”

“I think my water just broke.” (Which was, in hindsight, a ridiculous thing to say. Water was literally pouring out of me. There was no way this could be anything but my water breaking. But I was groggy and a little scared so I think I can let it go.)

My husband leapt into action, yanking on some clothes and gathering my overnight bag. I called the hospital to verify that we were supposed to go there right away and then proceeded to change out of my wet clothes. (A fruitless effort since the more I moved, the more water came but I’ll spare you the gory details.) We rushed to the hospital, giddy as school girls, and managed to get to labor and delivery without incident. I was so thankful we’d taken those birthing classes earlier because we knew exactly where to go and what to do. My husband filled out the paper work. I was wheeled into a room and given a gown. It was confirmed in a matter of minutes; my water had broken. Baby Bennett was coming three weeks ahead of schedule.

There were no contractions yet. The nurses wheeled me into a private birthing suite and then gave me something to kick start the contractions. It only took two to three hours before my body got the hint and continued the process on its own. I lasted five hours without the epidural. Silly me; I thought I might try toughing this thing out while watching HGTV. But when they told me I was only three centimeters dilated and the pain was already more intense than anything I’d ever felt before, I said screw it! “Give me drugs!” Having a giant needle shoved between two vertebrae in my back was nothing short of terrifying, especially because I couldn’t see when the needle went in. (That’s how I cope with needles; I have to watch them go in so that I can brace myself and breathe through the process.) My husband helped steady me. I was numb from the waist down within the hour.

For the next nine hours, I was able to rest and simply watch the contractions come and go on the monitor. Friends and family visited, talked, helped me forget I was in labor. Too many nurses to count came and went, updating me on my progress, moving me from one position to another. Finally, they declared me ready to push. It was…peaceful. My husband stood on one side of me, my nurse on the other. She coached me through it until it was time to call the doctor. It was just the four of us then, me pushing and breathing while they encouraged me. It only took twenty-three minutes. Then I heard that iconic wailing. A child was placed on my chest.

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I’d seen this moment before in movies and TV shows. Mothers had tried to describe it to me in the past. None of that did it justice. I’m having trouble describing it now. I remember feeling tired and relieved but also a bit overwhelmed. So much had happened in the last fourteen hours–in the last eight months actually! It was hard to believe it was all over. The thought hit me, “This is my son.” And that’s when the tears came.

My son.

MY SON.

Bennett Mordecai Fox. Five pounds fifteen ounces. Eighteen and three quarter inches long. He was a picture on a screen, a heartbeat on a monitor, a flutter or a kick in my stomach. And now he was a little person in my arms.

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My nurses and doctor marveled at how perfect he was. If he’d come any earlier, he would’ve had problems with his lungs or his immune system. But aside from having slightly lower blood sugar than normal, he was healthy. Still, they asked us to stay for forty-eight hours so they could run tests, be sure he was going to be all right. His blood sugar increased the more he ate. He passed all the other tests with flying colors. They gave us the OK and we brought him home Monday afternoon.

It’s been a whirlwind of activity ever since. Between figuring out this surprisingly complicated thing called breastfeeding (it DOESN’T come naturally? Whaaaaaat?), diapering, burping, and feeding this little human being at all hours of the day and night, my husband and I have hardly had a moment to ourselves. Okay, that’s not entirely true. We’ve gone out twice to celebrate our anniversary (he surprised me the day of, I surprised him over the weekend) and left Bennett with trusted loved ones. Plus both my parents and my husband’s mother have come to visit. They helped a ton.

Now we’re on our own. My husband went back to work almost two weeks ago. I’ve been surviving ever since, sleeping when I can, doing a little house work here and there, trying to build a new routine. I always knew being a mom would be difficult. Never imagined it would be this time-consuming. And I only have one child! But before I can get too overwhelmed, Bennett will do something adorable or just smile and suddenly things don’t seem so hard.

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This is my life right now. It’s busy. It’s exhausting. It’s difficult. It’s full of joy. It’s temporary. I know someday Bennett won’t need me as much. Someday I’ll have downtime again and get back into my writing. In the meantime, I’ll just try to enjoy the here and now.

 

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Worn

The alarm blares at six in the morning. She turns with difficulty and hits the snooze button, too tired to open her eyes more than a crack. Her baby is already moving, probing gently across her belly. Her body is already communicating, sending information to her brain like text messages. Full bladder; must empty. Empty stomach; must fill. Dry mouth; need water. Feet aching; need relief. Back sore; roll over.

Every new ping sounds louder and louder, until the hamster wakes up at the back of her mind. It gives itself a shake and begins to run on the wheel that turns on the lights and begins all the productivity. Like the grinding gears of an enormous machine, new thoughts move sluggishly through her mind at first. But they get faster, louder, more demanding. Thoughts about what needs to get done today both in the home and at work, what errands need to be run, who needs to be called, and are there any appointments today that she might’ve forgotten about? Oh, and did so-and-so ever email her back? She should probably check–

No, she thinks forcefully. Go back to sleep. 

Then a song joins the jumbled mess of thoughts. An song appropriate to her situation, but just as unwelcome as everything else.

“I’m tired
I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes to keep on breathing

I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world
And I know that You can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left…”

Quiet, she begs, pressing her face into her pillow. Please–

The alarm goes off again. Has it been ten minutes already? With a growl of frustration, she gabs at the snooze button yet again. Falls back into the mattress, tries to wipe away the obnoxious thoughts assailing her mind like gnats. She pictures a dark room, a blank slate, a broken radio, a faulty machine, anything that will communicate to the hamster that it can stop all production up there. But the hamster just keeps running, puffing softly, dutifully performing. And the song continues.

“Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That You can mend a heart that’s frail and torn

I want to know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
‘Cause I’m worn…”

Her body chimes in again, sending a more demanding message to her brain. Bladder FULL; must empty immediately. Her baby gives a big shove and she finds herself doubling over, drawing herself in tightly to keep from wetting the bed. When the urge is less severe, the covers are kicked off. With curses and groans, she wrestles out of the comfort and warmth and safety of her beloved King, and waddles (yes, waddles–like an engorged penguin) to the bathroom as fast as she can.

The baby weighs heavily on her pelvis and lower back. Her feet feel swollen and tender; she winces with every step. Sitting brings little relief. The toilet is wedged in the corner between a wall and the shower. Even with both knees against a wall, her belly takes up too much space. She shifts and grunts and eventually settles. At least she’s able to empty her bladder in a dignified, adult-like manner. Leaning back, she sighs.

When did something so simple become so complicated?

She knows the answer, of course. She pokes the baby with a finger; he makes everything more complicated than it once was. He kicks back. A little smile, a speck of contentment, a moment of love. But once one physical ailment is relieved, the others swoop into the spotlight. Stomach empty; must fill. Mouth dry; need water. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah…

She lets the dog out of the kennel next, travels into the living room, opens the back door, watches the dog sprint into the grass. The cat leaps down from the couch, meowing in greeting. Both animals are fed. Then it’s her turn. Cereal and almond milk. She sits and reads a few verses from her well-worn Bible, tries to see beyond the familiar story and hear a different message.

What do You want me to learn today?

Breakfast is finished. She stays on the couch, staring into space. Trying not to follow the trains of thoughts still blazing through her head. Maybe she can go back to sleep for a few minutes now that her body has been appeased…But a quick glance at the clock kills that idea. Heave, ho, heave, ho! Up from the couch she finally goes. She walks back into the bedroom (ouch, ouch, go her feet). The pressure returns to her pelvis, low and deep. Baby gives another kick. She presses her hands into her lower back, suppressing a groan.

“I know I need
To lift my eyes up
But I’m too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that You can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends…”

She blindly selects an outfit for the day. Struggles into the jeans. Tugs on the blouse. Shoves her feet into shoes that had once fit her loosely but were now tight. Looks at herself in the mirror. A zombie stares back, eyes half-lidded, ringed with dark circles. With slow, painstaking movements, it tries to do something with her hair. She used to try. She used to care. Now, she just pulls it into a ponytail. The dog follows her every movement, carrying around its favorite toy, hoping to play. She manages to kick the toy a few times. The dog runs happily after it and brings it back to her, wagging its stump of a tail, almost smiling as it pants up at her.

Sweet puppy. How are you always happy?

She scratches it behind the ears before heading back to the kitchen. There she prepares her lunch. The same lunch she had yesterday. The same lunch she’ll have tomorrow. Does she have everything she needs for dinner tonight? A quick peek in the fridge and at her recipe book. Yes, all but two vital items. Of course. She’ll have to stop at the grocery store on the way home.

Prenatal vitamins are ingested. She experiences a wave of nausea as a result. Brushing her teeth thoroughly, she manages to erase the bitter taste from her tongue. Rinse. Spit. Look up. There’s the zombie again.

“…my prayers are wearing thin
I’m worn even before the day begins
I’m worn, I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn so heaven so come and flood my eyes…”

There will be more aches and pains as soon as she leaves the house, little things that make everything feel worse. Faulty AC. Slow traffic. Irresponsible drivers. Never-ending phone calls from people with sob stories, people who feel the need to explain everything in specific detail before presenting their request, people who will demand things from her. Tasks assigned by coworkers. Disgruntled walk-ins (or worse: overly cheerful walk-ins). Nice people who only want to help. Concerned people who ask how she is doing. People she can never be honest with. And the long stretches of silence in between them all. Silences filled with nothing except her overwhelming desire to lay down and sleep. To shut out the world, to quiet her screaming body and squirming baby, and try to return to some semblance of the person she’d once been. Who was that again?

God, help me.

Blinking away tears, she tries to smile. She has to smile. Otherwise, her face betrays her true feelings. Frustration. Exhaustion. Selfishness. Apathy. Chronic pain. Things no one and nothing can alleviate. She is done being pregnant but a small part of her is afraid of what comes after. It’ll be worse, won’t it? It’ll be harder. If she can’t deal with this now…

Just let me get through today. Please. I need Your strength.

This is her mantra as she puts the dog out, snatches her short grocery list, picks up her purse and lunch and heavy water bottle, and waddles out to the car. She drives away, already anticipating her return. Will her husband have to work late again? Or will he be waiting for her when she gets home, ready to give hugs and kisses and much-needed foot massages? Baby rolls over in her belly. She winces and places a hand over him as she drives.

Careful, son.

She almost wishes he wouldn’t move, but she knows the moment he does stop moving, she’ll go into a panic. She’ll assume something is wrong. She’ll jab a finger at him until he jabs back, just to be sure she hasn’t lost him like she lost the first one. So she bears his kicks in silence. Tries to be thankful for the discomfort. Tries to find the wonder and the love again. Reminds herself that a miracle is going on inside her body. Still, the thought that rings louder in her mind is:

Six more weeks.

 


 

*Song lyrics from Worn by Tenth Avenue North*

Coming up

Stay With Me Banner (1)

The editing phase of I Dare You to Stay With Me is done. And now so is the cover! I’m just waiting to get the final images from my cover designer before I do a big social media reveal. I hired Cora Graphics for this job because Cora’s the artist responsible for Asta and the Barbarian‘s cover, which came out looking amazing. She didn’t disappoint this time around either. I’m so glad I was able to work with her again!

Once I have the cover, it’s only a matter of plugging it into Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing’s template and printing a proof for myself. And, as soon as I’ve looked over that, it’ll be publishing time! Thanks to all of you for your patience. I know I said I was going to publish this book this month but it looks like I’ll be publishing it at the beginning of April. So sorry to have to push things back but I want it too look and feel perfect for you guys.

I’ll be doing a promotion the week of publication, making the I Dare You to Love Me ebook free and the I Dare You to Stay With Me ebook only 99 cents. Follow me on Facebook or Twitter to find out the details!

 

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BHC Press is interested in publishing The Andromeda’s Ghost! I have a phone call scheduled with them this Saturday to talk about my plans of the trilogy and any other questions I might have about the company. From what I’ve read on their website, I’m liking what they have to offer. I feel like my fan base for this trilogy is smaller when compared to the amount of people interested in my other books. The fact that BHC Press has working relationships with reputable publications like Publishers Weekly gives me hope that I’ll have help building up that fan base. That and their shared-cost option (in exchange for a higher royalty rate) is very appealing to me.

So, unless I find out something unspeakably nonnegotiable about them on Saturday, I plan on signing with them. I’ve been pitching and querying The Andromeda’s Ghost for over a year. I’m so ready for my first science fiction/fantasy trilogy to have a home. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself now. More details to come!

 

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Asta and the Barbarians will be on sale for 99 cents April 8th through the 12th! If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, that would be the perfect time!

My Life

“…This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you’ve dreamed
That it would be when the world was younger,
And you had everything to lose?”
-This is Your Life by Switchfoot

When I was fourteen/fifteen, I listened to this song with hope that one day my life would be everything that I ever dreamed it would be. Because, I don’t know if you remember, but being a teenager isn’t as fun as they make it seem on TV. Your choices are pretty limited. You go to school, go to church, do your chores, do your homework, mind your manners, hang out with your friends, maybe get your driver’s permit, learn a life lesson or two. Sure, you have less responsibility and less to worry about, but that to me always meant being stuck in the same old routine.

I longed for the day when I’d be older because I couldn’t do any of the things I actually wanted to do until then. I figured if I finally finished school, published a book, got married, and started my own family, then I would have “arrived.” I would’ve been done with the farming and gaining XP part of this video game, and be leveled up enough to get to the good stuff. Do you know what has happened the older I’ve gotten? Nothing. I still feel exactly the same, like I’m waiting for the “good” part of my life to start.

Don’t get me wrong; I have A LOT to be thankful for. I have a good-paying job with incredible health insurance. I have a car that works (most of the time). I’m living in a rental house that’s in a good neighborhood. I have a husband that I don’t deserve. We have loving and supporting families, a nurturing church, great friends, and pets that are practically angels (when compared to the animals in all of those shaming memes). I’ve published three books and will be self-publishing a fourth in the next month or two (fingers crossed). I have a bouncing baby boy on the way.

According to the logic of Teenage Me, this should mean that I have “arrived,” right? My days of striving and waiting and working are over. I have everything that I’ve ever wanted, but nothing is at all like I thought it would be. I’ve always known that I’m something of a romantic, that I see life through rose-colored glasses. The truth is I don’t see life at all.

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I thought this meme only pertained to the fantasy worlds I wrote about. I was wrong. This is just how I view everything. Unrealistically. Positively. Naively. I set myself up for disappointment because I’ll always be waiting for my circumstances to align with my view of how things “ought to be” after all my years of “farming.” When in reality, life is hard and is always going to be. People tried to tell me this when I was younger. Sometimes I believed them. Most of the time I didn’t. Now, I think, I’m finally starting to see.

Because–shocker!–the things I’ve been looking forward to? They have their down sides too. For example:

  • I’m done with school (for now); that’s great. But trying to make writing my full time career or trying to get an internship at a publishing company is a drag. There’s always a better writer, a better candidate.
  • I’m published. Again, great! I’m super proud of the fact that I have books out there for people to enjoy! But book promotion and marketing are soul-crushing. There are so many articles and blog posts and YouTube videos chock full of information that has, so far, not helped me very much.
  • I’m married. Woohoo! But…actually, I have no complaints there. Being married to Devo Fox is pretty amazing. Sure, sometimes we confuse and frustrate each other, but we never go to bed angry. He’s still the first person I want to see when I wake up in the morning, the person I can’t wait to get home to. Moving right along…
  • I’m pregnant. Guess what. Feeling nauseous and exhausted all the time sucks. There are things I used to do with ease, things that I can’t do anymore because I literally don’t have the energy. I keep hearing that it’ll get better with time but it hasn’t. I’m thinking I’ll keep feeling sick and tired right up until I pop this kid out.

There is no giant scale where all my hours of farming go in and, after I’ve reached a certain point, I’ll have “earned” an easy-breezy end to my life. I’m always going to have to work for what I want. I’m never going to “arrive,” not until the second coming. If I get a little extra money to travel or purchase something big that I need, it’ll be a blessed miracle. If I ever look around and feel any measure of peace or contentment, I need to cherish that because those moments are so fleeting.

But nobody wants to hear about that, do they? Complainers and downers get nothing but eye-rolls and cricket noises. Plus, I don’t want to stay in this depressingly realistic place either. I want to continue seeing the bright side of things, to continue believing that my circumstances will get easier with time. Because if they don’t, then I might actually give up. What kind of life would that be?

There’s a not-so-subtle theme in The Andromeda Trilogy (cool name pending). It’s something along the lines of “do the best you can with what you have and try to find happiness no matter where you are in life.” It makes me sound wise but, as you can see, I’m still trying to figure out how to put that into practice. How to be content without getting complacent. How to see things as they are without giving in to depression and discouragement. How to explain to my kids the difference between living in the moment and being reckless. Because I can’t wait for the day my unrealistic expectations come true. Not anymore. This is my life. It’s happening right now. There is good and there is bad. There are things I can do and things I can’t. What am I going to do with this knowledge, this new outlook? Time will only tell.

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The Plan

In March of 2017, my husband dropped a bombshell on me. He said, “Whenever you’re ready to have kids, I’m ready.”

Up until that moment, we’d been focused on “the plan.” My husband was going to get into the police academy. We were going to raise enough money to replace one of our cars with a reliable family car. And then we would start our family. It seemed to me to be the smartest, most logical thing to do, the best way to guarantee a secure future for our children. But the more I thought and prayed about it, the more I realized that I was putting God in a corner. I was so focused on getting all of my ducks in a row that there was no room for God to work. So in April, I stopped taking birth control. I said, “Whenever You think we should have a baby, God, I will be ready.”

Toward the end of May, we found out I was pregnant. But then in July, an ultrasound revealed that our baby had no heartbeat. There was no obvious cause. I was healthy. There hadn’t been any complications that the doctor could see. He just assumed that something had gone wrong during the child’s development, which he said was common.

The doctor gave me two options: I could either wait to miscarry naturally, which could happen anywhere and at any time, or he could prescribe some medication to jump-start the miscarriage. I chose the medication and planned to miscarry over the weekend. But the process lasted much longer than that, approximately three months. And even then my body’s cycle was off. I saw the doctor again in February of 2018. He put me back on birth control to get my cycle regulated. He said it could take anywhere from four to six months before I would be physically ready to try again.

This was not something I ever expected. I knew a few of my coworkers had experienced miscarriages before giving birth to their children, but in my naivety, I believed it wouldn’t happen to me. I thought I’d conceive and give birth just as seamlessly as my mother and my sister-in-law had. Instead, this had happened. I felt hurt, confused, depressed, betrayed. I’d taken a chance. I’d gotten rid of my plan and put my trust in God. This wasn’t how things were supposed to turn out. Growing up in church, I’d always heard that “God is good all the time.” It was something I’d known as a fact for as long as I could remember, but it didn’t feel very true to me during those trying months.

In the midst of all this inner turmoil, I could almost hear my own words echoing back to me. “Whenever You think we should have a baby, God, I’ll be ready.” That’s what I’d said. But what I actually meant was, “I’m ready now.” That was my mistake; I thought I was giving up my control and surrendering to God’s will when, in reality, I was just coming up with a new plan. And, once again, shoving God into a corner.

I was reminded of Peter then. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples on the beach. Peter was the first to approach Him but not the first to speak. He’d denied his Lord three times and was probably feeling lower than dirt. While they were all sitting together, Jesus asked, “Peter, do you love me?” Only in my case, I felt like God was asking, “Becca, do you trust me? Do you trust that I know what’s best for you, I want what’s best for you, and I know exactly when to give it to you? Do you trust that I love you, despite what circumstances I put you through? Do you trust in my provision alone or are you still trying to be self-sufficient?”

I was. I am. Daily I struggle to surrender my illusion of control to the only one who is actually in control. My husband and I could have the best paying jobs this world has to offer, but circumstances can still snatch our money away in creative and unexpected ways. (We only have to look at my previous blog post to see proof of that.) Our security is not found in our bank account; our true and lasting security is found in Christ alone. He could’ve given us a baby at any time, whether I was on birth control or not. And He would’ve provided for that child whether my husband had a better paying job or not, whether we had a better family car or not. It only took losing my first baby for me to realize that.

When the time came to stop taking birth control and try again, I was still scared. I still dreaded the thought of another loss, another disappointment, another six months of recovery time. But I had a new confidence in my God’s goodness and in His perfect will. Whether we had a baby or not, I knew my husband and I would be just fine.

Last week, it was with humble and joyful hearts that we told our families that we’re expecting. Our baby is due to be born on June 11, 2019. And we look forward to whatever comes next.

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It seems this story is going to have a happy ending, but I know now more than ever that nothing is guaranteed. The end of this month will mark the end of my first trimester; the chances of miscarrying are lessened but it could still happen. Or the baby could come early and with complications. Or I could give birth to a stillborn child. There are so many hard possibilities, painful realities, things that have happened to countless mothers all around the world. My miscarriage experience was terrible but also wonderful because I feel like my eyes have been opened.

Losing a child is more common than I ever realized. The women and men who have gone through it suffer in silence because it’s painful to talk about, because they have family or friends who maybe haven’t been as supportive as they should’ve been, because they don’t want to burden other people with their problems. Or for a hundred other reasons. All I can say is: I see you, mother of angels. I know that feeling of helplessness, father of angels. I’ve felt that physical pain, that unbearable heartache.

I’m so sorry.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers for you, just a virtual hug and, hopefully, some encouragement. There is hope, joy, and comfort to be found in the arms of our Heavenly Father. No matter what your experience has been with people who claim to follow Christ or with church or with religion in general, I hope you find Him one day and come to realize how much He loves you, even when life seems to scream otherwise.

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14 NIV

“But I will sing of Your strength; in the morning I will sing of Your love, for You are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” Psalm 59:16 NIV

“Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that He will lift you up in His own good time. Leave all your worries with Him, because He cares for you…But after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who calls you to share His eternal glory in union with Christ, will Himself perfect you and give you firmness, strength, and a sure foundation.” 1 Peter 5:8&10 GNT

My new YA romance manuscript

For those of you who are following me on Facebook, you know I’ve mentioned a young adult romance “project” that I’ve been working on. Now, that it’s finished I can say it: it’s a sequel for I Dare You to Love Me!

Yep, that’s right. All of you Brian and Iris fans who were kind enough to leave reviews and were begging for a sequel; it’s finally here! Well, almost. I finished the first draft, edited through it, had a beta reader look at it, and then went through another round of edits. It’s as polished as I can make it. I emailed my publisher about it. Now, all I can do is wait for instructions. Crazy, right? I still can’t quite believe it. In October, I Dare You to Love Me will have been published for a year and now it might have a sequel before the end of 2018!

It’s kind of funny because I never planned on writing a sequel for this particular book. I mean, I fantasized about doing it a few times, just because I love these characters and I had such a great time writing their story. But, because of that rule I have about writing sequels, I held off on actually writing one until I was sure I had an amazing plot that would be just as good if not better than the first. It took almost ten months, but I’m confident I’ve accomplished that.

Here’s the blurb:

It’s been three years since Brian Royland was dared to take Iris Newman to the prom. They’ve managed to keep a strong long-distance relationship even while balancing college classes and jobs.

Around the same time of Brian’s impromptu marriage proposal, William Lexington comes back into Iris’ life with an opportunity to go on tour with a well-known rock band. There’s only one condition; he has to be reinstated as Angst’s bass guitarist. Despite her reservations, Iris can’t deny that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So she puts her engagement on hold to fulfill her dream, with Brian’s blessing.

While the band’s on the road, discovering things about each other that they never wanted to know, the drama in Brian’s life escalates. Not only is he dealing with a competitive coworker, a biased boss, and a roommate who just can’t seem to take no for an answer, but then his long-lost mother decides she wants to fight for custody of Leah after all. Brian and Iris’ phone conversations get shorter the more time passes and the distance only grows wider. Things quickly spin out of control, to the point where both Brian and Iris start to wonder if their love is strong enough to withstand the new miles and obstacles that separate them.

I Dare You to Stay With Me is technically a new adult fiction novel because the main characters are twenty-one, but it still has a young adult feel. It’s fun while also tackling some hard subjects and shedding light on some pressures a lot of teenagers deal with. College students will definitely be able to relate, since Brian’s chapters focus on the stresses of going to school while also having a job. All in all, I think you guys are really going to enjoy this second installment to what I’m very tentatively calling The Dare Duo. It’s too soon to tell if there’s going to be a third book or not. I would love to, obviously, but I don’t know if I can whip up an even better plot than this one in the next year or so.

For right now, I think I’m just going to sit back and enjoy getting this second book published.

Stay tuned! More news to come.