The birth of my firstborn

OK, my firstborn is almost 30 and I am a grandmother twice over. But I have to tell you, when my book was finally published and I held it in its finished form for the first time, it was like holding my first baby; one I’d waited for a long time and had begun to think perhaps I would never have.

More than the usual share of blood, sweat, and tears went into the birthing of this child. It almost wasn’t on more than one occasion. A few months into the writing of this book, my family was torn apart by the kind of gut-wrenching experience few families survive. In the middle of this, a child was torn from us, not by death but by his own selfish wrong choices. Despite repeated attempts to save and redeem him, in the end the best thing we could do for him and our other children was to let him go, but we grieved for him and all the experiences he deprived us of. We missed out on his senior year of high school, his graduation, and all the wonderful rights of passage into adulthood we should have shared with him.

Then I suffered a sudden, unexpected heart attack. I had a grand mal seizure and stopped breathing. I was clinically dead for several minutes, and would have died if my oldest son had not performed CPR. The months that followed were a whirlwind of doctors and medicines and tests and surgeries, and I couldn’t drive. My husband had to take me everywhere, and as a result, our business began to suffer. Between the loss of income and the medical bills, we soon found ourselves upside down financially. We tried to dig our way out, but things only got worse. We finally ended up declaring bankruptcy and losing our house and one of our cars.

After all of that, I was still determined to finish the book, and found a critique partner with whom I exchanged book chapters on a weekly basis, each helping the other stay motivated to write and making recommendations for improvement. After a few months of this, we had both completed our manuscripts, and we were working on writing the synopsis when tragedy struck again. One Saturday morning, moments after I’d left the house we were renting to take the kids to karate class, someone threw a rock through the back kitchen window and broke in. They stole the desktop computer and my laptop among other things, taking the only completed version of my manuscript that I had. This was in the days before cloud storage, when you still stored documents on your hard drive, and I had not even made a printout.

Fortunately, I had the last versions of each chapter with my critique partner’s recommended changes for all but one or two chapters sitting in my email. I would only have to rewrite a couple chapters from scratch, and make all the changes again. Still, this last setback rather took the wind out of my sails. It was a few years before I picked it up again, and by this time, a lot of it was outdated and I ended up rewriting several chapters. When I finished the second read-through, made all the corrections, printed out my final paper copy, and put it in a 3-ring binder, I figured that was the end of it. I was no longer in contact with the agent who had expressed an interest in representing me at my first writer’s conference. I would be embarrassed to contact her all these years later. There was too much water under the bridge. The book was for me, and I had finished it, and I was OK with that.

But I wasn’t. I would tell people I had written a novel, but it wasn’t published, and that made me sad inside. I felt gypped. It was a good book. I was proud of it. I wanted others to read it. I had considered self-publishing, but it was expensive, and it had always somehow seemed like cheating. But then I saw that many of the authors I admired had self-published at one time or another. I found a solution which made self-publishing a viable option. I decided that even if I only sold copies to my family, I would still like to see it in print. I asked my husband if I could get my book published for Christmas, and he agreed.

At this point, the book had been shelved for several years. It wasn’t until the first proof came back from the publisher that I realized I needed to do more rewrites. Once again, technology had changed and some of my references dated my book. Secondly, I had written a key turning- point in the book around a worship song the heroine sang as a solo in church. I had not realized what a headache or how potentially costly the use of song lyrics could be when I wrote the story this way. After a bit of research, I ended up rewriting that entire section to use a different motivation for her change of heart. The rewrites and corrections had to wait until I finished school for the semester, so it was closing in rapidly on Christmas before I finalized my changes and uploaded a new interior. The book was officially listed as published on December 20th, but it would be the first week of January before my copies arrived.

Imagine my surprise and excitement when the book showed up on Amazon that same day! I was able to order two copies retail; one for my brother and one for my mom and dad, with free Prime shipping and guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve. I had my doubts, but as I would see both of them over the Christmas holiday and it was the only way I knew of to get the books to them on time and be able to autograph them without paying twice for shipping, I decided to try it. Sure enough, they both got them on time, and how neat it was to surprise them that way!

But the most exciting moment was when my brother arrived late Christmas Eve and unpacked the book for me to see, and I got to hold it for the first time. It was incredible. If I’d had a publisher, I would not have had control over the final title or the design of the cover, but this book was entirely mine. It was exactly what I’d envisioned it would be. It was perfect. OK, I did find a few typos I missed, but it was nearly perfect. A mama doesn’t notice imperfections in her baby.

What has been even more incredible has been watching the sales reports. I am starting to think about how to market the book, but all I did the week it came out was to post a picture of it on Instagram with a link to the book. I haven’t seen any print sales reported yet (but that can take up to 30 days on expanded channels), but my Kindle book has been downloaded 7 times in 11 days, and one of those times was by someone in the UK. I won’t make a fortune on royalties no matter how my book sells. I certainly don’t make much on a 99 cent Kindle download. But people are reading my book. I mean, I know that’s not a lot, and I know I’m not going to be the next New York Times best-seller, but for me, having done nothing to promote the book, it is super cool.

So, my first born is here, and Mama is pretty darn proud. If you’d like to download a copy or order a print edition, you can locate it on Amazon.

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