As 2015 drew to a close I did something I’ve talked about doing for years. I published my first novel.
When you’re a mother it’s hard to find the right gift for your children and my youngest had been on me for quite some time to finally finish Soaring Alone. She helped me with the identifying the arc of the story, read bits and pieces of it, grumbled when I changed the title, and even put expected completion dates on the whiteboard. –The latter more the once. So when I was down to only 60 days before Christmas, I knew that making this long awaited dream a reality was the perfect gift for my daughter.
Secretly, my husband helped me with the details involved. A couple of dear friends did final reads of the manuscript. I scrounged for the perfect author photo. Made a dozen or more calls to CreateSpace when I wasn’t sending them an e-mail. I fretted often and second guessed the whole idea a handful of times.
Then I held my first proof copy and was overcome with delight. The second proof copy came. I corrected a big mistake I’d made in the cover. Note to self: pay attention to detail! I approved the final revisions. I tracked the shipment of the author proof more times than I’ve ever tracked anything.
It arrived at the post office on a Saturday –an hour after the post office had closed and I had stopped there twice to check the box. When the green tracking line indicated it had been delivered I had a serious desire to break into the building just to hold the book in my hands.
With only a few days to spare, I had it. An actual proof copy of a novel that I wrote. It was amazing.
I wrapped it in a box covered in the best wrapping paper I could find and put it in the closet until Christmas Eve. The next day I spent a full eight hours at my desk at work filled with anxiety –worried she wouldn’t like it. Stressing that her only reaction would be: “Oh it’s a book. That’s my good good present?”
My husband assured me that wouldn’t be the case. He smiled whenever we talked about the subject –proudly in a way that made me believe him a little bit.
The wait was horrendous. I told no one about it. Not my editor. Not my former professor. Not my incredibly amazing unbiological sister to whom I tell everything. Not even my other kids.
After the initial excitement and shock wore off and the anxiety dissipated, I finished work for the week and made my way home in blizzard conditions following a quick stop off to purchase one final gift for my other daughter.
Hubby and I cleaned house in preparation for having our large brood of kids over for the holiday. We took all the wrapped presents out of their hiding space in the closet and put them neatly under the tree until morning.
Our daughter woke us shortly after 8a.m. She was giddy and ready to tear into the gifts. Some coffee, breakfast preparation, and texts to her less than punctual older siblings later we were gathered upstairs. Coffee in hand I watched her impatiently suffer through the others’ opening their stockings before she began handing out gifts to everyone.
We took turns oohing and ahhing over one another’s goodies. Scarves, clothes, kitchen gadgets, and coffee cups were scattered amidst the torn wrapping and ribbon. Jewelry was exclaimed over and a few explanations given about gifts that needed them.
Finally I noticed her opening the carefully wrapped box. I hesitated and cautioned her, my anxiety flaring up again. I considered getting out my phone and videoing her response but didn’t want her to feel obligated to put on a show if she did end up disappointed. As she used her brother’s pocket knife to cut through the tape, she began to talk. For a moment I turned away, distracted by something one of the other’s said. Then I heard her:
“It’s a book.”
Pause. Pause. Pounding heart.
She looked closely at the cover.
“It’s your book.”
I looked at her, nodded.
“It’s real? Like you did it?”
“It’s your book. I’m so proud of you. I can’t believe it.”
And she cried.
“I’m so proud of you. It’s your book.”
And I cried.
“Open it. Look inside.”
She turned to the title page and showed it to me as she wiped her tears.
“Keep going. There’s more,” I told her eager for her to see her name and the short message I’d scrawled inside.
She turned the page and read the handwritten note.
“It says my name,” she cried.
The room filled with five young adults and hubby was quiet. All attention was on the scene unfolding closest to the Christmas tree.
She turned another page and read the dedication.
“It has my name again. My name’s on all the pages.”
She flipped through the pages and looked at the back cover.
“You’re crying,” hubby said to her. “You don’t like to cry.”
“I know. But I’m just so happy. I’m so proud of you Mom. It’s your book.”
I’m crying as I type this just remembering the moment and the sound of her voice.
As she passed the book around to her siblings, she wiped her face one last time and continued to open more gifts. Hubby and I told her (and the others) the story of how we’d spent the last two months in secrecy working to get the project that had lain dormant for nearly a year completed in time for the holiday.
The next day I pressed the buttons to make it real and available to others. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. It has been every bit worth it.
In 2016 I plan to continue writing. I have a historical fiction novel in the works. It’s a story very dear to my heart. I hope to get an opportunity to immerse myself in the book’s setting for a while so that I can complete some much needed research. I’ll learn some about the marketing side of being an independent author.
Oh and probably…I’ll fret about what to get my daughter for this year’s Christmas. Publishing another book in 11 months is a bit unrealistic given the fact I haven’t touched my manuscript in about a week. But regardless, Christmas 2015 will go down in history for our family as the year Mom finally did what she’s been talking about doing for ages.
If you haven't yet ordered a copy of Soaring Alone, it's available at the websites below in both paperback and e-book form. Already purchased your copy? I hope you'll leave a review & tell me what you thought of Rachel's story. She's one ordinary woman going through an extraordinary journey to decide what family means to her.