In the Interim

Ohhhh, goodness.

It’s been a while, hasn’t it guys? Boy have I got some catching up to do.

I know I always make the excuse when I don’t write for a long time that I’ve been busy, or lots has been going on, but I promise that when I don’t write for two months, there’s been some things going on.

Let me explain.

In my post from January when I talked about how I missed my friend’s wedding because I got lost, I also talked about New Year’s resolutions, and I made a short and simple list of what I hoped to accomplish this year. In case you don’t want to click that link and re-read that (I certainly try to forget that ever happened), let me refresh you on what those resolutions were.

Sara’s New Year’s Resolutions for 2014
1. Finish my novel.
2. Get a job.
3. Move out with my sister.
4. Get a tattoo.
5. Go on a date (maybe).
6. Not miss any other weddings I am invited to.

So, to bring you up to speed, let me tell you how close I am to achieving any of these.

1. Finish My Novel.
Okay, this is kind of a throwaway if you’ve read my blog at all, because I not only finished my novel, I self-published it on Kindle in July. And while I haven’t checked in a couple months, I’d sold like a significant amount. Like, well over 500 as of Septemberish (Maybe? To be honest, I stopped checking because I was afraid people would stop buying it and I didn’t want to know).
But anyway, I well surpassed any expectations I ever had. I also am about to self-publish the first run of paperback copies of my novel, and so many of my amazing and wonderful friends have signed up to buy it, which still just blows me away. Like, I still can’t really believe sometimes that people want to read my novel, much less PAY MONEY for it. I honestly still find it hard to believe that people actually want to read this blog.

Whoa.

Whoa.

But anyways, the point is that I think I can safely check this resolution off as completed.

2. Get a job.
This is also kind of obvious if you read my blog, because I’ve also been working at a wedding shop since July. Getting to dress people up in wedding dresses and veils and also getting to do so myself = automatic awesomeness. Not much else to say about that. I’ve truthfully already picked out my dress, belt, and veil and I tried to say yes to the dress, but my boss pointed out that I might want a fiance first. I just laughed that off, because I probably need a boyfriend before I even worry about that hurdle. But the job hurdle? Check!

Just call me Gatsby!

Just call me Gatsby cause I’m making paperrr.

3. Move out with my sister.
Okay, so this is kind of the big one. This has rather been the one occupying most of my time. As I type this, I am laying on the couch in the living room of the house I share with my sister.
That’s right, guys. I moved out. And it’s super, super weird. Like, I honestly feel like I did in college, when I was just living at school but my home was with my parents. It’s not helping that I had to leave Gus with them because he’s obsessed with running outside and we live on a super busy corner of a super busy street. I also miiiight have gotten a new cat named Henry who is like ridiculously adorable.
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He had to live with my parents for a while though, because it literally took us like two months to get our new house (duplex, actually) ready for us. I swear to god, it was a money pit. We just kept finding more things wrong that had to be fixed. I’m pretty sure that I have spent as much money in the past three months as I have in my entire life.
But he and Gus instantly became best friends, and now I feel incredibly guilty about taking him to our house, especially since we’ve already brought Finn up here (who took a full two days to come out from under my bed and even look around). So this has resulted in me going back home rather a lot.

HOW CAN I LEAVE THEM THOUGH

HOW CAN I LEAVE THEM THOUGH

But for better or worse, we are moved out and giving this thing a go. It is exciting, because we moved in just in time to celebrate Halloween and we had some adorable little trick or treaters come visit.

I also might have made a visit to my parents' house...

I also might have made a visit to my parents’ house…

We’re also planning on having Thanksgiving for my parents and some of my other family members at our house, so that’s also pretty cool.
But moving out? Check.

4. Get a tattoo.
So this is also kind of a new one. One of the main issues with getting a tattoo that I’d had before was that I couldn’t decide which one I actually wanted first. But after I lost Boo, it kind of helped me realize that I wanted a cat tattoo first in honor of him.
Thanks to my amazing best friend Brenna and her (then) fiance Jennings, I managed to accomplish this one.10699704_10153380516909057_5693046581355142999_o

Best photo of the whole experience.

Best photo of the whole experience.

The final product and its inspiration.

The final product and its inspiration.

Getting a tattoo is not exactly the most pleasant of experiences, but it was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. I have like zero pain tolerance so I honestly was terrified I wouldn’t be able to get through it. But the whole process only took about 10-15 minutes, and Brenna held my hand the whole time so I managed it. I am unbelievably pleased with the result.
I decided to get it on up my upper left leg, right where Boo always used to curl up and sleep against me. It makes me feel like where ever I go, I have him just right there with me. It’s honestly one of the best, most important things I’ve ever done for myself, and I love it.
So tattoo? A painful but well worth it check.

5. Go on a date (maybe).
Ah, despite my strong misgivings and uncomfortableness with the whole idea of dating, I even did this. Thankfully the date I went on was with a friend from high school who was very cool and nice about the whole thing and picked an awesome date (going to a local art museum) and the whole experience was really perfectly fine. (Except for the part where we got trapped for thirty minutes in the same parking lot where I went the wrong way and backed into a car–I’M TELLING YOU THAT PARKING LOT IS SENTIENT, IT IS EVIL, AND IT HATES ME).
But I did it, guys. I went on a date. Check. (But seriously, no rush on the next one because those things are emotionally EXHAUSTING)

6. Not miss any other weddings I am invited to.
Perhaps the hardest one of all with my sense of direction. And yet the two weddings I’ve attended since I last wrote were two of the best, most wonderful of my life.
In September, my long time friends from college, Lauren and Scott, were married in a sweet and elegant ceremony in Tulsa. They even asked me to read a poem or something along those lines during the wedding (they also told me they didn’t want me to tell them what I was reading, which let me tell you IS PRESSURE.) I went with one of my favorite poems of all time, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. Luckily, I think they liked it and my speech, and I was absolutely honored when they asked me to be one of the witnesses that signed their marriage license. It was truly an absolutely wonderful experience, especially since I got to go to the rehearsal and dinner and spend the evening before with Lauren.
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In July, on the exact same day that I started working at the wedding boutique, my very first best friend Brenna got engaged. It was one of the best days of my life when she subsequently asked me to be her maid of honor. She was married in an absolutely gorgeous and stunning ceremony in Norman, and I literally cried through the whole thing. It was both strange and wonderful, because I couldn’t see her the entire time after she came down the aisle, but I could see her fiance’s face and the way he was looking at her was just pure love. I could tell he adored her and I was just so happy I couldn’t stop crying. I had tissues hidden in my bouquet and I’m sure it looked like I was literally wiping my face with flowers, and it was still one of the best moments of my life. I was afraid from the moment that Bren asked me to be her MOH that I would bawl my way through my speech, but luckily I think I cried it all out during the ceremony. Though I choked up a couple times, I managed not to cry during my speech.

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I also managed not to miss any of the weddings I was invited to. Check, check.

So. As you can see, I genuinely have been busy. I managed to complete all my resolutions, and by October–with a couple of months to spare!

That being said, life, as I have learned repeatedly, is always up and down. And the past few days for me have been very down.

My cat Gus, as I mentioned, stayed at my mom and dad’s house. A few days ago, he started throwing up everything he ate. My mom eventually took off work and took him to the vet, and they gave him a nausea shot to help and said he didn’t seem seriously ill. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t take the news well. I had a panic attack–the first I’ve had in months.
I talked before about how much I struggled with depression and anxiety in the past year and a half and what an enormous challenge it was for me to overcome. But with the help of my family and my doctor, I got counseling and I also got medication, and it has seemed to make all the difference. That’s why it made this panic attack so absolutely terrifying–I thought I was better. I though I was DONE with panic attacks.
It was so scary to realize that, even with regular medication, even with special medication to help me prevent it if I felt one coming, I could still have panic attacks. It was exactly the way it used to be, the same sickeningly familiar symptoms. I got dizzy and nauseated, and I couldn’t seem to stop crying, and I felt convinced that Gus was going to die at any minute. Ironically, an incident when we thought Gus might have eaten something poisonous and I had one of the worst panic attacks I’d ever had is what made me finally stop and say, I think something is wrong and eventually led to me getting help. It was a bizarre kind of full circle.
My sister drove me to my parents’ house, and I spent the evening there with Gus, who seemed to be doing better and who even managed to eat and keep it down. I started to feel better, and it seemed like he was better as well.
The next morning, I woke up and started getting ready for work, only to get a call from my mom that Gus was throwing up repeatedly again. We both agreed that we desperately needed to get him back to the vet for bloodwork–the problem was, no one could take him. Thankfully, my incredibly understanding boss let me have the day off so I could get him to the vet.

The experience I’m about to relate is not for the faint of heart, so if you’re squeamish about medical stuff or have a weak stomach I suggest you skip it.
I rushed to my parents’ to get Gus, who absolutely hates riding in the car. So, he proceeded to climb into my back window and howl for the fifteen minute drive to the vet. The vet doesn’t take appointments either, so when we got there we had to sit in the car and wait. We waited for almost an hour, and the only reason they called us back was because they had to have the bloodwork done by 10 in order for us to get our results back that day (it was Friday, and if we’d waited any later we wouldn’t have gotten them back until Monday).
So they took us back to like a nurse’s station where they do the blood drawing. They had to shave a little chunk of poor Gustav’s hair off, so he has a little bald spot on his neck where they drew the blood. Now, let me preface this by saying that as you may know if you’ve ever met me, I kind of have a problem with needles. Like, I hate them. Like, they literally make me sick. Like, I haven’t gotten a shot since I was 17 and my mother could no longer make me get them.
So they were trying to draw blood from a vein in Gus’s neck, but the first needle they used was too small. So then they had to get a bigger needle. And as they’re struggling to draw blood, the nurse is like “I think I should’ve got an even BIGGER needle.” Now, you may be wondering why I didn’t step out of the room since I have such a problem with needles, right? Well, in the first place, I didn’t realize I had a problem with needles when used on pets. I’ve seen my dogs get shots a hundred times and it never really bothered me. Second, poor Gus looked absolutely terrified as they held him down and I know it cannot feel good to have people stabbing at your neck with different needles (that phrase literally makes me sick to my stomach). So, trying nobly to be a good cat mom, I stayed so I could pet him and talk to him. As they were drawing the blood, however, I heard one lady say, “Man, this blood is so dark and thick.” I, of course, immediately looked at the syringe, because this concerned me. What did that mean? Was that a bad sign?!
She followed it up by saying, “Of course, you’d expect that in a cat that’s been throwing up.”
I felt immediate relief, followed by immediate heat. A short time later, I realized that I was staring at that little bald spot where they had the needle in, and I was getting even hotter. I realized I probably should’ve taken my coat off, and proceeded to sling it somewhere (I honestly don’t know where I put it). Abruptly, I realized I was also very sick to my stomach, and somewhat desperately I inquired where the bathroom was. They told me it was out of the room, down the hall and around the corner.

Now, I remember walking out the door of the room, but after that my vision disappeared. All the sound started roaring in my ears, and I felt myself fall against a wall. I was sentient enough to realized I had fallen into the wall, and I heard myself say, “Oh, oops!”
I don’t have any memory of what happened after that until I woke up and found myself sitting on the floor. I was incredibly confused and disoriented, and couldn’t figure out where I was in the vet or how I’d gotten there. I probably wasn’t out more than five or ten seconds, but I was DEFINITELY out. A nurse came out into the hall and goes, “Oh my god, are you okay?!” I sort of realized then that I’d fainted, and I replied in a low miserable groan, “Noooo.”
Then, I proceeded to throw up on the floor of the hallway at the vet’s office.
Yep. On the floor. In the hallway. At the vet’s.
I heard someone go, “Oh no.”
Then, a trash can was shoved at me and I managed to throw up three more times into it before dry heaving for a bit. At this point, there were people flitting about everywhere, because the more people to see my shame, the merrier! Someone handed me a roll of paper towels as someone called for a mop and I realized that I was half-sitting in my own throw up. It was then it occurred to me that I was within one of the lowest moments of my life.
I started apologizing repeatedly, and everyone was super nice, of course. The nurse brought Gus out into the hall and he was just meowing in her arms like, “Um, what are you doing? I am the one who is sick, not you!”
They made me sit in a room and drink a glass of water while I was waiting for the doctor so I could recover. Unfortunately, this also left me time to sit and stew in my shame and humiliation.
When I finally got to go home, I immediately collapsed in an embarrassment-and-exhaustion-fueled sleep. When I woke up that afternoon, I realized that I still had some throw up in my hair and I had to take a shower.
So, all in all, definitely one of my finest, proudest moments.

This was only the second time I had actually fainted; the other was when my sister had to have surgery and they put the IV in and got blood all over her hand. I made my way into the bathroom, sat on the floor, all the sound started rushing and getting louder in my ears, I passed out for a few seconds, and then I threw up three times in the toilet. Nice and tidy. To be fair, I hadn’t eaten dinner the night before, then I’d barely slept, then I didn’t eat breakfast that morning, and I was overall incredibly stressed.
I have to say, my second experience with passing out was much worse than the first. Again, to be fair to me, I hadn’t eaten dinner the night before (panic attacks kill my appetite), I didn’t sleep well, I didn’t eat breakfast, and I was incredibly stressed.
So I think I’ve figured out the recipe to make me faint. Needles + blood + lack of sleep and nourishment + stress = shame and embarrassment. A winning combination.
Luckily for my sanity, we got the results back that same day and Gus’s bloodwork was completely normal, so I count it as worth it.

Basically, in the interim since I last wrote, I have been checking off resolutions… and humiliating myself in brilliant, awe-inspiring form.

So pretty much the same old, same old.

The Secret Life of a Wallflower

I know I keep apologizing for my long absences on here, but I really do mean it.
Life has just been crazy busy lately, what with my new job and all. Also, our wireless router broke and so we’ve been having to poach off my nana’s wifi (she lives next door) which has not been a terribly successful method of operations. This has resulted in it being very difficult to get online and write posts or edit different versions of my book for different platforms.

Today, I am finally going to write the post I’d been planning about publishing my novel. As you may have guessed by now, I like to have a little time to reflect on the big changes and things that happen in my life before I write about them. I also intended to have information on here about all the different avenues you could purchase it on, but with the no wifi thing, it’s been essentially impossible to accomplish that. All I can offer you is the Kindle version, which is $2.99 and I DESPERATELY hope you will buy. Seriously, I will love you forever if you will click this link and make a purchase:
http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Life-Wallflower-Lives-Book-ebook/dp/B00M0EVCGU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406770072&sr=8-1&keywords=the+secret+life+of+a+wallflower

Another thing I have to beg of you is that if you read it, please please PLEASE review it. So far my novel has exactly two reviews, one from my friend Kayla that is kind and generous, and one from a random stranger that gives it one star and says it’s full of contradictions and the language isn’t true to the era (Newsflash: romance novels are works of fiction, essentially NOTHING ABOUT THEM is really historically accurate when you come right down to it. So if you’re looking for historical accuracy, read a history of Regency England. Hello.)

Even with only two reviews, one of which is ONE STAR, 304 people have still bought my book in a little less than a month. Let me just say how utterly mind-boggling that is. Like, seriously. My brain cannot fathom this. This is even more strange to me than when 100K+ people read my viral Buzzfeed post– because this is a NOVEL that I spend FOUR YEARS writing and which COSTS MONEY. And 304 people have said, yep, I’ll give that a go! 

Now, I know a large portion of that number comes from my amazing friends and family, who’s support has been overwhelming to me. But regardless of the reason they bought it, people are actually BUYING it. Even more exciting, this helps increase my chances of being noticed by a major traditional publisher– or at least gives me something to brag about when I write query letters, which helps improve your chances because your novel is demonstrably sellable. 

For anybody out there who doesn’t have a Kindle, I promise I am working on versions for Nook, Kobo, and the Apple store. But just a note, if you have a tablet or a smartphone or even a laptop you don’t mind reading on, you can download the Kindle app and buy my book that way. So technically you don’t even need a Kindle.

As for a print version, well, I’m considering. The problem is that when you print a book on your own, it becomes very expensive for the buyer if you want to make any viable profit off it. First, you have to pay to produce the books and have them shipped to you. THEN I have to pay to ship them to everybody who orders them. Based on the number of people who told me that they want to buy a hard copy, according to the math I would probably make 50 bucks on the whole venture for an enormous amount of time and effort unless I wanted to charge like 13 or 14 dollars for my book.

And that just doesn’t feel right to me. 

Right now I’m playing with the idea of ordering the books and then having an author signing event when they come in, so that way people could pick them up and it would eliminate the cost and need for a second round of shipping. But then you run into problems like where do I have it and what if people can’t make it to the signing to pick up their book? I’m still working to find a viable solution for both myself and the people who would buy the book, but I’ll keep you updated.

Another thing I’ve learned is that trying to market your book when you’re a self-published author is pretty difficult. I know I should’ve written this post before now to help with some of that, but like I said– things have been crazy. 

To anyone reading this who has a blog or something similar, I would be THRILLED if you might want to read my novel and post a review on your site. I would be happy to give you a copy for free in exchange for the promotion. If you have a book club that is interested in using my novel, I’d be happy to come speak or answer questions or something. A book club that my old soccer coach and a mom of one of the girl’s I played with have actually asked me to come speak at their book club before they read my book for the month of September, which is just crazy and amazing and terrifying all at the same time. But I can’t wait to do it.

So that’s about it, I guess. That’s where Sara Rowe, author, stands currently. I’m hoping that you, my amazing and wonderful readers, will join my fan club.

Here’s the links to some of my pertinent social media pages:

My Facebook Author page: 

https://www.facebook.com/sararowewriteswords

The Secret Lives Series FB page: 

https://www.facebook.com/thesecretlivesseries

My Twitter: 

https://twitter.com/rowemygatos

My Goodreads Author page:

 https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8402241.Sara_Rowe

and again, the link to my novel:

http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Life-Wallflower-Lives-Book-ebook/dp/B00M0EVCGU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1406770072&sr=8-1&keywords=the+secret+life+of+a+wallflower

Again, regardless of whether you buy it or read it or not, I still cannot thank you enough for following my blog. It means the world.

The Metamorphosis

Hi friends.
Isn’t it crazy how different your life can be from one point to another? I look back on my life at this point last year, and I hurt for what that girl was about to go through.

Life already wasn’t perfect for me at that point; I had graduated college for one thing. And that’s a wonderful, amazing thing to accomplish, obviously, but it just left me… floundering a little bit. I’ve talked before about how school really provided a lot of the framework for my life and time, and when I graduated I was suddenly faced with a world of utter uncertainty. On the other hand, I was happy because I re-fell in love with my novel and started working on it constantly. Then, shortly after graduating, I began getting sick every time I ate. This time last year, I literally could not eat without feeling like I had to vomit shortly later. I lost a great deal of weight in a period of two or three months and essentially lost my appetite, and it took a very long time to finally figure out the problem and treat it properly.

In September, my best friend died. My cat Boo was my most faithful, loving companion for 16 years and losing him simply devastated me. I couldn’t sleep at night; instead, I would lay on my couch and just cry, always trying to muffle my sobbing so I wouldn’t wake anyone up. The littlest things would set me off and at times it felt like I truthfully was never going to be able to function normally.
Finn became so affectionate and sweet after we lost Boo, like he knew how much I needed him– but he just wasn’t Boo. Getting Gus in November both helped and hurt, as well. He is a hilarious, energetic, mischievous cat that keeps us on our toes, so it was a good distraction. But on the other hand, it felt so painfully wrong. Boo had only been gone two months; how could we get a new cat? Gus got worms only a few days after we got him and I had to take him to the vet. They put me in the same room where they’d told me Boo had a tumor– I cried in the room until the vet got there, and then cried the entire way home.

I wanted to take Gus right back to the Humane Society. I suddenly felt the most overwhelming panic– what was I thinking getting a new cat, one that was only going to get sick and die and shatter my heart, just like Boo had? I already was feeling this agonized resentment mingled with love towards Finn, and then I just added one more cat to feel that about.

None of this was their fault, of course, and they’re both wonderful, amazing cats that I love deeply (Finn is laying on my arm and half on my laptop as I type this, purring happily and blocking half my view of my keyboard). But I was going through some serious grief and trying to cope with it. I was finally beginning to make some sort of sense out of life again at the end of November; holidays always help cheer me up and I love Thanksgiving.

Then, two days after, my youngest dog Cash died in my lap. I know I talked about it before, but the memory is just so strong in me of how it felt as I kept bending over and clutching my stomach and saying over and over, “I can’t stand this, I just can’t stand it.” There was literally so much pain and hurt and devastation inside me that it just didn’t seem humanly possible that my body could contain it all. How could this happen?  An already uneven world suddenly tipped completely upside down, jumbling and jarring and setting into chaos everything within it.

By this point, I’d already been applying for jobs and getting rejected–repeatedly. Over the next few months, my nana had a stroke, we found out my uncle had cancer and his Hepatitis C (got in the 80s from a blood transfusion, before they screened for that) worsened considerably, and I hurt my quad muscles and ended up not able to play soccer for almost four months.

After Boo had died, I suspected I was depressed. When Cash followed him so soon after, I was pretty sure of it. But I thought it was something that would just get better.

It didn’t.

Every night seemed endless for me, because I couldn’t stop reliving all these bad things that had happened and crying about them. I slept poorly and never felt rested, so I was tired all the time. I lost my appetite again, and I just felt upset a lot. I have ALWAYS been a cheerful, happy person. I am passionate and enthusiastic about life, and there are so many things I tend to get excited about. But my novel that I’d been so feverishly working on seemed stupid and awful, and I abandoned it. I just started watching movies on my laptop at night, just to try and distract myself from the bad memories. I started re-reading all my favorite old books to give myself something to do when I couldn’t sleep.

Another thing I started to notice was how anxious I felt all the time. As morbid as it sounds, I started just being swamped by this overwhelming worry that my loved ones were going to die unexpectedly. I thought about it almost constantly, and I couldn’t make myself stop, no matter how hard I tried. I’m not the type of person who can hold a grudge or stay truly mad at someone for a long time; I just don’t have the personality to sustain it. I’m a happy person.

But that was no longer true. I wasn’t happy; in fact, I just felt terrified and upset and off-balance all the time. I also started getting sick chronically again. The day I left the vet after hearing Boo had a tumor, I bawled the entire way home. I was by myself and when I got back I got horribly sick and eventually passed out for a minute. The night before Boo died, I threw a screaming hysterical fit for hours and made myself sick again. After Cash died, I was so angry, and I just wanted to lash out at everyone and everything. I was aware of this, even as I couldn’t stop myself from feeling like it. I would feel so furious, and then suddenly I’d be in the shower and I’d just start crying.

One night I came home from soccer (before I got hurt), and my mom was afraid that Gus had eaten something poisonous. I started feeling sick and so I got in the shower, because that used to help when I was having all my stomach issues. I ended up getting dizzy and sick and my mom and sister had to help me out of the shower. I started bawling, and I kept asking what was wrong with me. I laid on the couch in my towel and cried and cried; I just couldn’t seem to stop. At some point we read in the paper that someone had seen a mountain lion only a few miles from my house. For a whole month, every time I heard my dogs bark outside at night I eventually went out there with an air rifle and a flashlight, convinced they’d been mauled to death. When my nana had her stroke, I got horribly sick again, even though she ended up being fine. My cat Finn also developed a horrible cough, where he would sound like he was choking and hacking but never cough anything up. He gulped and swallowed constantly, and at night he would often wake me up with a coughing fit and send me into a panic attack. I took him to the vet and they guessed it was bronchitis, so they gave him an antibiotic to take. It seemed to help only moderately, and then he went back to doing it and I kept panicking.

One day, I went outside and found a huge lump on my dog Riley’s hip. Quite simply, I melted down. I was home alone again, and I got sick and started crying and became convinced it was cancer and he was going to die just like Cash and Boo. By the time my sister got home, I was desperate and felt out of control. We called and scheduled an appointment for the next day at the vet.

When we got there, it didn’t take long for the vet to tell us he didn’t think it was cancer. Apparently it’s very common in older dogs to have lumps, and as this one was right over his hip the vet figured that he’d simply lost a lot of the muscle on his hip joint and scar tissue had built up to protect it.

Riley was okay, but I wasn’t. Increasingly I felt this almost constant sense of overwhelming doom, like at any moment something horrible was going to happen. I was sick and anxious and upset almost all the time, and was home constantly by myself. I kept getting rejected by jobs and my family was all at work, so it felt like all I did was sit around and think about awful, horrible things.

I kept making excuses for why I couldn’t see my friends or go anywhere, because I was afraid something might set me off and I’d have a panic attack. I never wanted to leave the house; I just wanted to lay in bed. I was essentially just a shambles.

The next time some little, silly thing set me off, and I found myself crying and upset, I talked to my sister. As you’ll know if you read my blog, my sister is my best friend and there is nobody more important to me in the world. I share everything with her. And though I’d talked some about what I was feeling–it was impossible to miss– I’d never really come right out and said that there was something wrong, because she was having stress of her own as she’d taken a long-term sub. She was busy and tired most of the time, and I just didn’t want to bother her–I also didn’t want to admit something was wrong with me.

When I finally spoke up, my sister– who has a degree in Psychology– told me she had suspected I was depressed for a long time. We both agreed that something needed to be done; it was starting to affect my daily life and I was getting to a point where I felt like I couldn’t even function right anymore. I was having panic attacks weekly, sometimes two or three or four or even five times a week.

One night I sat down and just opened up to my parents. I told them how I felt scared and anxious all the time, and how I thought something was wrong and I needed to get some help. They were wonderful, just like my sister–loving and supporting. I had a doctor’s appointment only a couple of days later. My doctor told me it sounded like there was absolutely something wrong, and she recommended me to a counselor so she could diagnose me and then my doctor would be able to treat me appropriately.

I felt very apprehensive about going to a counselor. There truly is an enormous stigma around mental health issues in our society; even though if someone told me they were going to counseling for depression or something like that, I would NEVER think ill of them, somehow it seemed like people would think I was lying or over-exaggerating or just crazy.

My counselor was incredibly nice. I saw her three times, and over that course she gave me tests to take so she could diagnose my problem. Turns out I had GAD, or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and it had gotten so bad that it was causing me to have Panic Disorder as well. I also was suffering from a moderate to severe case of depression.

It was so terrifying to hear this put into words. It felt like I was doing something wrong, or I was being a baby, or just overreacting to everything. On one hand, I didn’t want to hear it and I didn’t want to talk to a counselor or a doctor.

On the other hand, this was a nearly unfathomable relief. To actually hear a qualified professional tell me that, yes, there is something going on here and you aren’t just making it up was liberating. She explained to me that essentially what had happened is my brain’s coping mechanism had just gotten overwhelmed and basically shorted out. I could no longer react and cope with things appropriately, so the littlest things were setting me off and I was overreacting enormously and having panic attacks. She referred me back to my doctor with this diagnosis.

My doctor explained things to me. Depression, and the other things I was feeling, were being caused by a lack of serotonin in my brain. It’s the chemical your brain creates that makes you feel happy essentially. What was happening is that my brain was creating the normal amount of serotonin, but then reabsorbing it way too fast so it wasn’t staying in my brain. She discussed with me how medication could help get me back to normal.

I didn’t like it. I resented the need for medicine. But she explained to me how it was the same thing as taking an antibiotic for an infection. I think that’s what is so hard for us to realize; that taking care of your brain is just as important as taking care of your body, and both can get sick and need to be treated. I still didn’t like it, but I knew I needed to do something.

My doctor gave me something called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor–or an SSRI. More specifically, she gave me Zoloft, which I take daily. This would stop my brain from eating up the serotonin too fast. She also gave me something called “Boost Bars,” which were little pills to take in case of a panic attack that would work almost immediately.

In the beginning, I had to take them fairly often. We thought a tornado might be heading for Mustang, and so I took a couple. Quite a few times Finn woke me up from a sound sleep coughing horribly, and I had to take them. Various other things would start to set me off, and I had to take them.

But since I first went to the doctor a few months ago, I have only had a panic attack two or three times. I feel unspeakably better–I’ve felt like myself again.

My life, which for so long seemed to be on a downward spiral, slowly began improving. Little things started happening.

I began bringing Finn in the bathroom with me while I showered, because I read somewhere that the steam could help with something called kennel cough, which we think is the most likely culprit. It’s incredibly common in animals that come from a shelter or a rescue, which is where we got Finn, and there’s just not really a cure. It periodically acts up. But since I’ve been having Finn in the bathroom with me, his cough has gotten a hundred times better.

My nana has been doing very well, and after the last stroke they finally prescribed her some regular medicine to take that will help her from getting another.

I met my idol (and future husband) Steven Adams randomly at the mall, and he really was incredibly nice and took a picture with me:

Don't mind the height difference

Don’t mind the height difference

Incredibly, I finished, edited, and self-published my book, and the support and encouragement I have received has been overwhelming (that’s my next post). I published it exactly one month before my 23rd birthday and fulfilled one of my deepest dreams.

And then, like a miracle, not ten minutes after I met Steven Adams, I got an email asking me to come in for an interview to the bridal shop I had applied to on a whim and without hope for getting it.

The interview went really well, and they seemed incredibly nice. A week later I had a second interview. Then I took a wonderful, amazing vacation with my family to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon(!!!). A few days after I got back, I got an email inviting me to become an employee of Meg Guess Couture Bridal.

Today marked one week since I started at the shop, and it’s already been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. One of my biggest fears was that the people who work at a bridal shop would be snooty or hateful, but they are exactly the opposite. Meg is one of the nicest, most encouraging people I’ve ever met and I love all of my coworkers already. Every day has been different, and an adventure, and I love it. I’m excited to get up and go to work in the mornings.

Even more amazing, the evening after my very first day, my very first best friend Brenna got engaged, and a couple days later asked me to be her maid of honor.

It’s like after months of seeming famine, suddenly there is feast. Life is bright and exciting and filled with possibilities again. I feel happy and passionate and enthusiastic about the things I am doing, and surrounded by my wonderful loved ones. I laugh and smile and enjoy life again.

I guess the reason I waited so long to talk about my anxiety was because I didn’t know how to talk about it. I felt embarrassed and confused and overwhelmed by it. But after steady medication and a couple months of life being good instead of bad, I finally feel like my old self, and it’s so important to me that I share my experience. I want to make sure anyone who has gone through the same things doesn’t feel stupid, or crazy, or melodramatic like I did, and I want them to know that it IS possible to get better, no matter how bleak or hopeless life seems. I was never suicidal, but I have an all new understanding for people who feel that way. Some days it just seemed like I didn’t want to be here. To people who feel like that, and that the only answer is to end things, I beg you– try counseling. Try medication. Try just talking to your friends or your family or even a random stranger. That’s the hardest part to overcome, I think, the trying. Because after awhile it seems like what’s the point?

But there IS light at the end of the tunnel. Looking back on where I was this time last year, I still hurt, so painfully, for what that girl would have to go through. But the only constant characteristic of life is that it changes. I have grown into a whole new person. I named this post The Metamorphosis because of one of my favorite short stories of the same name by Franz Kafka.

The basic plot is that a man suddenly wakes up one morning and realizes he has been turned into a bug. There is no explanation for this change, and he slowly loses his humanity as he struggles to continue living life exactly as it was before the change. Eventually he becomes so lost to humanity that his family becomes terrified of him, and ultimately causes his death, which he accepts willingly.

The sudden dark turn that my life took was as bewildering to me as if I had suddenly woken up and turned into a bug. I felt the same sense of unfamiliarity with my own self, as if without my permission it had changed into something I did not recognize or understand and had no control over. Life felt absurd and pointless, and it seemed as if I was trapped in a dark room alone simply waiting for what life might throw at me, much like the main character in Kafka’s story was. I struggled miserably and in vain for months to try and regain the patterns of my old life, to keep going on as I had been.

But that was the thing– I was not as I had been. I had been irrevocably changed, without warning or permission, and the person I was had essentially died. I had to accept that I was not the same person.

I don’t know what lies ahead for me. Maybe at this point next year I’ll look back on myself at this point and feel the same agony for what I will face. Or maybe I’ll look back at this point and think what an amazing, wonderful adventure I have to look forward to. I have no idea, of course, but I do know that life is series of peaks and valleys. I could be facing the Mariana Trench, or I could be about to climb Mount Everest. I’m sure you’ll hear about my view when I know.

Either way, I’m looking forward to my next metamorphosis.

We Interrupt an Attempt at Self-Publishing to Bring You This Blog Post

Hiii friends.
So. I know it’s been almost a month since I blogged anything, and for that you have my apologies. It’s been kind of a whirlwind lately, and lots of factors have contributed to my unintended month long break. For example, I: went on a date, met Steven Adams, had two interviews for a job at a bridal store (waiting to hear back), went on vacation, got rejected by Avon, and decided to self-publish. Also the World Cup.
Mostly the World Cup.

But things have been a bit busy, you might say.

I intend to address the date, Steven Adams, job interviews, and vacation in another/other posts, but for now I just want to bring everyone up to speed on what’s going on in the world of Sara Rowe, potential author.

About a month ago, I submitted my manuscript to Avon. I can’t say I was surprised when I received an email telling me they weren’t interested a few days ago, because most authors get rejected hundreds of times and my book is just hella long compared to average romance novels. As I mentioned before on here, I have been toying with the idea of self-publishing anyway, and this was the necessary ingredient to push me into doing it. I still plan to pursue traditional publishing avenues, but in the meantime, I’m going to take advantage of the ever evolving and changing literary market and self-publish with Amazon’s KDP program.

This is much, much easier said than done. I knew when I initially looked into self-publishing that it was going to be a bit complicated. But, lo, how young and naive I was–I had no idea just HOW complex the process is. Let me just shoot you my top three concerns right now:

1. You have to copyright your book before you can self-publish it, and it costs $35. I do not have $35. A friend suggested a Kickstarter but that seems so weird– “Please give me money so I can publish this book that you’ll need to give me more money for!”

2. TRYING TO CREATE AN ACTIVE TABLE OF CONTENTS IN A WORD DOCUMENT IS REALLY REALLY HARD AND JUST PRETTY MUCH THE WORSE. To convert your Word Doc to an ebook, you have to preformat it in a certain way. One of those ways is putting in a navigable Table of Contents that will transfer to ebooks. Spoiler alert: SUPER CONFUSING AND AWFUL  AND GOD I’M STRUGGLING.

3. Designing covers– also really, really hard. Especially when you don’t have Photoshop. I started at about eight or nine yesterday, and didn’t finish creating my cover until about 9:30 this morning. I used a combination of an online photo editor, the KDP cover creator program, and Microsoft Paint. Because I’m just fancy like that. Now, for you viewing pleasure, I will debut my cover:

slow cover 2

I’ve actually had a few people on Facebook offer to help me create a cover, which is just ridiculously kind and wonderful and I’m not sure how to answer them. To be honest, I love this one. I really, really, really love it. I put an ENORMOUS amount of work in it, including finding a background; finding a picture of a girl in an appropriate dress and editing the colors and the style and then painstakingly cutting it out of its background in Paint; finding a picture of a flower and pasting it into Paint over and over and over again in varying sizes and then cutting out different pieces of it to create the flower train of the dress; and trying to appropriately format the title and my name in the very limited capacity of the Amazon KDP cover editor.

Is it truthfully that good? I can’t tell. Much like with a child, I put so much work and struggle and pain into this cover that all I can see is perfection, but it’s just probable that I may not be very objective. But I have essentially reached the limits of my cover designing abilities, and after twelveish or so hours, I’m pretty much just done with the whole thing anyway.

When creating it, I had in mind the covers of my current favorite author’s most recent series:

courtney milan cover

 

(Just a quick PS, if you like historical romance, you are committing a crime by not reading Courtney Milan. She is unspeakably wonderful and amazing and talented.)

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I’m really just riding the struggle bus right now with the whole self-publishing thing.

Meanwhile, my brain has been overflowing with ideas for the second novel in what I plan on being a series, and I’ve just been busily working away on that. You would think that simultaneously going through all the awful, horrific editing/revising/trying to publish nonsense at the same time would put me off, but alas, I just can’t be that sensible.

Maybe this means I really am a writer at heart.

Speaking of, a writer isn’t officially a writer until they have their own webpage, so I have created one where you can find info and updates on how publishing the novel is going. It’s pretty basic and bare right now, but I’ll be working on it periodically and adding things as they come up. Hopefully I’ll actually have something more to put on it soon. You can also like and follow my Facebook page for updates, there’s a little box in the right upperhand corner that you can click and you’re set!

So that’s pretty much a quick summary of what’s going on right now. For the first time in probably ever, I’m going to publish a post that’s not even 1,000 words.

Maybe that will tell you guys how sick of doing work  I am.

Going Viral

Well, Readers.
It’s been an eventful few weeks since I last posted.
First in my big news, I wrote an article for Buzzfeed called 27 Embarrassing Things That Can Happen When Substitute Teaching that went viral. I got the idea from my admittedly rough experiences with subbing, and then thought to myself, just think how much worse it could have been! I started working on it at about ten or eleven on April 18, sat up all night finishing it, and submitted it to Buzzfeed at about 5 in the morning on April 19.
Just in case you’re not familiar with how writing for Buzzfeed works (I certainly wasn’t), you sign up to be a member of something called Buzzfeed Community. Once your first piece gets approved by an editor, you get to the first level of something called Cat Power. You can then continue to submit things which then get posted to Buzzfeed’s Community section, under the Just Launched tab. Everyone with Cat Power gets put on the Just Launched section, but there’s no guarantee your article will really get seen.
When I woke up in the afternoon of that day, I had an email from Buzzfeed that morning saying that my post was getting a lot of interest, and I should watch and see if it got promoted to the front page of the Community section, instead of just the Just Launched section. After I read that, I opened up my next, more recent email that said an editor had really liked my post, and so it had been promoted to the front page of the Community.

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I was crazy excited, so I went to my article to look at how many views I had. And then, to my utter shock, I read that I had nearly 8,000 views. EIGHT THOUSAND.
Guys, the most looks my blog has ever gotten in one day is 373.
I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the fact that almost 8,000 people had read something I had wrote. I floated about in a haze all afternoon, hardly able to believe it. As far as I was concerned, 8,000 views was viral for me.
At around 9pm, my parents and I decided to go eat dinner at the restaurant where my sister works. When we were leaving, my post had 12,000 views–I didn’t even know how to handle that.
And then, just before we left, I got an email saying that my post had been promoted to the actual front page of Buzzfeed, the one that EVERYBODY sees.

Screenshot_2014-04-19-21-17-27
My mind just went blank. I didn’t know what to think or what that even meant. I couldn’t conceive of this fact, that my post was actually going crazy.
At the restaurant, I was telling my parents what had been going on. You have to be on a laptop to see the number of views on your post, so I didn’t know what my front page promotion had meant, but I figured I was probably getting more views.
My dad, who had never used the Buzzfeed app on his phone ever before, opened it to see what Buzzfeed was like. Then he said to me, “Sara, isn’t this your article?”
I took his phone from him and looked–and I discovered that my post was the very first article on Buzzfeed.
THE. VERY. FIRST. POST.
wpid-screenshot_2014-04-19-21-18-18.png

My mom opened her app, and it was the same on hers. I opened it on my phone, and found that it really was true, not a fluke. Not very long later, I got a text from my dear friends Skye and Lauren, both freaking out because they saw my article on the front page of Buzzfeed. Skye asked me how many views I’d had now, and I told her I couldn’t tell from my phone. She got on her laptop and checked for me— 38,695 views.
Thirty. Eight. Thousand. Views.
In the hour that I had been at the restaurant since my post had been promoted, 26,000 people had read my article, over double the amount that had read it before that. As we ate dinner, I just couldn’t stop smiling. I was euphoric, in a word. I just sat there with this stupid grin on my face. I couldn’t believe what was happening.

And then, people happened. I hadn’t even really thought to look in the comments sections, because half the time I forget that Buzzfeed articles even have a comments section. I was only reminded of the fact when Skye texted me telling me there was a hateful comment, and that she wanted to say something back.
Immediately, I felt a little uncomfortable. What could someone possibly say bad about the post I’d written? I went and started reading the comments, and quickly began to understand.

wpid-screenshot_2014-04-19-21-48-12.png

Unprofessional? I had never been accused of being unprofessional in my life. In fact, I’ve ALWAYS been a goodie two-shoes. I love rules, and I love following them. It made me feel good to do my best and to do the right thing.
I couldn’t understand this– didn’t they get that this was a joke? It was a humorous list on Buzzfeed–maybe ten of these things happened to me in reality. And I’d said it right there in my title–these were embarrassing things that COULD happen when subbing. Not that these all happened to me in one day.
And another thing–some of the things on my list included showing up a little late, or getting a kid’s name wrong, or making a reference that they didn’t get. And you guys are telling me that these things NEVER happened to you? Not once, ever, in all the time you’ve been doing this?
Because, I’m sorry, you’re lying. EVERY teacher, substitute or not, has mispronounced a kid’s name at some point.
But I could feel myself getting worked up, and I realized I needed to calm down. It was two people who had left negative comments, I just had to accept that they had completely missed the point and move on. Skye texted me shortly after to tell me that I had 46,819 views. I was immediately distracted by the fact that 8,100 people had read my article within a ten minute frame. I didn’t even know how to take that.

If you ever have something go viral on the internet, you’re going to learn the lesson that I did. As the hours went by, more and more people started saying awful things on my post. A girl called me a piece of smut. A piece of smut, guys. I’ve never been called smut before in my life. How did this girl who had never met me and knew not a single thing about me feel that she had the right to pass judgement on me??
One girl commented and literally said, “This post is irrelevant.” What??? What does that even mean? Irrelevant to what??
After about thirty comments of that nature (some from people who were going back and commenting again, like they were just so offended by my very existence that they felt they had to say something about it twice) I decided it would be best if I stopped looking at the comments.
The lesson I learned is this– people can be incredibly obtuse. My sister told me that someone said that they were really angry because they clicked on my link thinking that it was going to be something useful for teachers, and it was just my trashy list. Really? You thought that a list on Buzzfeed was going to offer you serious advice? There are always going to be people in a world who just don’t understand when something is a joke, regardless of how obvious it is, and these are always the people who are going to comment on your writing.
I feel the experience was best summed up by one of the comments. Someone said something along the lines that I made teachers look bad, and I was a horrible example for students, who are the future of our world, obviously, and that I should be ashamed and not allowed to sub. It just seemed ironic to me that  they were so concerned about me setting a bad example for students, and yet they were the one commenting spiteful hate on the internet. That’s certainly not the kind of example I would want my child seeing from their teacher.
That evening around 12:45, I received an email from Buzzfeed saying that I had passed the 100,000 viewers mark.

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It helped put things in perspective a little bit for me. Yes, I had about 80 or 90 mostly rude comments on my post, but that was such a minute fraction of people compared to the 100,000 that had read it. I had to believe that most of those people–including the Buzzfeed editors who had promoted it–had gotten the joke and laughed along at the picture I was painting. Buzzfeed even tweeted my list out on their official Buzzfeed account.
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Apparently Twitter got my joke a lot more than actual Buzzfeed did, because every single retweet or tweet about my post I saw was positive–it went a long way towards making me feel a little bit better. I had numerous people tweet me and tell me that these exact things had happened to them.

The next day I received like twenty emails from Buzzfeed, most telling me I had won different awards (none of which I understood, as this was literally the third post I’d made for Buzzfeed and I didn’t really get what was going on or what it meant). I got emails telling me my post went viral on Facebook, and that it went viral on Twitter, and that it went viral on Buzzfeed itself. The higher the views got on my post, the more unreal the whole thing seemed to me.
Yes, it was incredibly amazing and mind-blowing that this many people had read something I had written. But after a point, it really didn’t mean much. I got an email saying that I was one of Buzzfeed’s Top Ten Users–but I couldn’t even figure out what that meant, or if it was even significant. As wonderful as it was to have my post go viral on Buzzfeed, it didn’t really affect my life that much–aside from teaching me that people can be very mean behind the safety of a keyboard. This has always been a lesson I knew existed but I had never really experienced the effects of. People on my blogs have been unfailingly kind to me, and for that I am eternally grateful.
My post, which is pretty much in retirement now, sits at 319,113 views. To me, that’s an astronomical number, and an enormous achievement. I can say to people, yep, I was featured on Buzzfeed’s front page, and I had 319K views. But aside from the cool factor, it didn’t really do anything to change my life. It’s not like I suddenly got to become a paid writer for Buzzfeed.
I eventually moved down the list, and then got taken off the front page, and then faded away altogether. That’s generally the thing with going viral–as fast as it happens, it’s over. I think I ended with about 150 comments, most of which I’m assuming are bad, but I’ve decided it’s not worth it to look. Because when it comes down to it, it doesn’t really matter what those people said about it. I know that I’m a good substitute teacher, who has never cussed before in front of a student ever, and who has never slept through a class she was supposed to substitute for, or really done any of the more offensive things on my exaggerated for humor list. I’m not a piece of smut, thank you very much.

So thus was my experience with going viral.
For my second bit of big news, well, remember how I said that going viral didn’t really do anything for me or change my life in any way?
Well, I lied. After some of the furor had already began dying down a few days after my post went crazy, I got on my official Facebook writer page (which I beg you to pleeease go like if you haven’t already, you can follow this link or just look on the side of this blog where I have connected the page to this one and all you have to do is click the little like button!). To my astonishment, I saw that I had a message from somebody–I didn’t even know you could get messages on your official writer Facebook page.
Even more to my shock, the message was from this really nice guy named Scott, an editor for the Music section of a British website called WhatCulture.com. He told me how he’d saw my post on Buzzfeed and the amazing number of views it was getting. And then he asked me if I was interested in becoming a paid writer for their website.

I’ll admit it, Readers. I was pretty sure it had to be a scam. It seemed too good to be true– someone actually wanted to pay me to write funny lists, something I do for free on this blog and on Buzzfeed, too. But the more I read and looked into WhatCulture, the more I became convinced it was a legitimate site.

And one that wanted to PAY ME TO WRITE.
I began emailing Scott, telling him immediately that I was interested and figuring out how things would work. Now, anybody can sign up to write for WhatCulture.com (including you, and if you do sign up to write for them, please mention my name, it helps me out!), and the way it works is you earn 40 pence for every 1,000 views your article gets, and you get paid at the end of the month. But since someone contacted me and asked me to write, I don’t have to go by that system.
Scott is my official editor, so basically my boss, and when I get an idea for an article I get his approval; or he can suggest an article idea to me and we can tweak it until we’re both happy with it. Then, I write it and submit it for review when I’m done. Scott looks through and edits it, and then once the post goes live on the site, I know I will get a certain, set amount–regardless of whether one or one million people look at it.
It’s not a full time job, of course, but I’m getting paid a very fair amount to do what I love. And there isn’t really a limit on the number of articles I can write. As long as Scott approves them, I can write as many as I want. This is real experience, something that people can go and look at on an official, proper website and see.
My first piece, 9 Underrated Kid’s Movies You Didn’t Realise Were Awesome (British spelling of realize is my editor’s work haha), was just published on May 2nd, and it already has almost 20,000 views. It also has ten or eleven comments. Now, those numbers are not as lofty as my Buzzfeed article, but you know what? Every single one of those comments is kind or helpful or just friendly discussion. Oh, and it includes one of my favorite comments I’ve ever received:

I honestly don

I honestly don’t even care you used “your” instead of “you’re”

Oh, brandon. You flatter me… Please keep it up.

And so, I come to the whole point of this long, slightly crazy post. This whole experience has taught me a number of important things about being a writer, for example:
1. Some people are going to say awful things about your writing.
2. When you choose to write for public consumption, you better accept that people are going to hate your work.
3. Sometimes, making it big is not a pleasant experience.
4. Sometimes, out of an unpleasant experience comes something really wonderful.

Basically, if you’re a writer, you just have to keep writing and putting yourself out there, regardless of what anyone thinks of you. After all, you never know who might be reading, and what kind of opportunities might come your way.

Speaking of–Brandon, if you’re reading this, hit me up, son.

10 Lessons I’ve Discovered While Writing My First Novel

Hello, Readers.
I’ve been meaning to write this post since about February, but somehow am only just now managing to get to it.
As I mentioned a few times, I recently finished my very first novel. To put it simply, it was an eye-opening experience. Over the course of nearly four years when I was writing this book, I learned a great deal about myself, my abilities, and the process of writing an entire book. Now,  I bring to you some of the most pertinent bits from my journey.
Throughout this post, I will be using my favorite meme of all time, Writer Leopard. Now, there have been times (SOOO MANY TIMES) when I have questioned whether I was meant to be a writer, whether I had any talent at all, if I was just wasting all my time. Then, one day, like a treasure chest of priceless gems in your own backyard, I discovered Writer Leopard, the most accurate meme I’ve ever found (aside from Socially Awkward Penguin). You may or may not know this, but I am OBSESSED with leopards. They are my favorite animal, hands down. When I realized that the meme for writers was emblemized by a leopard, I knew I had found my calling and that I was in the right profession.
Whether you are an aspiring writer, an avid reader, or just a kind person who is reading my blog, I hope you will find this useful. I cannot, of course, promise that this will be the same experience you are having, have had, or will have, but this is what it’s been like for me.
So get ready, because I’m about to hit you with a realization tornado.

1You will have a whole lot of ideas for a novel.

Since deciding I wanted to be a writer somewhere between the age of twelve and fourteen, I would estimate that I have started approximately fifteen to twenty books. I have had ideas for about 1,000. The best source for these, of course, is when you’re in bed at night, five minutes from the verge of sleep, and you’re suddenly struck with most incandescently brilliant and utterly original idea for a novel that has ever blessed the mind of any writer ever.
Generally, if you don’t write it down, you’ll have forgotten it by the next morning.

Did I mention it was a leopard IN A MONOCLE?!

The idea for the novel I finished actually came from another book I was reading at the time. I was very frustrated by the interaction between the hero and heroine, and I felt a need to make it better (another great source of novel ideas).
Suffice it to say, if you are drawn to writing, you will see ideas everywhere and in everything.

2. You should not, under any circumstances, believe all those ideas are really as great as they initially seem.

There’ll be a whole lot of ideas that you have that never even make it to paper, and that’s as it should be. But there will be ideas that you love so much that you do find yourself starting them into a real, actual novel. But one of the hardest lessons you’ll ever have to learn is that some of your ideas are just not good, and even though you’ve written a hundred pages on them, they are never going to see the actual light of day.  Some of your novels just need to be abandoned. As badly as it hurts, however, one day you’ll look back on them and wonder what in god’s name you were EVER thinking.

It’s for the best.

 

3. Writing a book is really hard.

Hopefully if you are really serious about being a writer, you’ll already have accepted this as obvious. I mean, the funny thing about writing a book is that you actually have to do all the work. Like, if you don’t write it, it just… sits there. It doesn’t go anywhere or do anything, because this is literally just stuff you’re making up. And one of the hardest things about writing a book is actually sitting down, picking ONE idea, and actually finishing it. Part of the reason I took four years to finish a book is that in that time I started five or six other ones, worked semi-seriously on two or three, and periodically lost interest and motivation in writing anything at all. But I think the way to know that you’re a writer for real is that no matter how tired of it you get, you always come back to it in the end, no matter how long it takes, because you just physically can’t stop writing. Even if it takes four years.

4. There’s no specific way to write a book correctly.

This was one of the big struggles for me. I googled all kinds of stuff to try and figure out how to motivate myself to write. When I was younger I felt sure that there had to be some specific method that was guaranteed to work. Like if you make an outline, type up a list of plot characters, and designate an hour every day when it’s time for you to write, you’ll have your book churned out in no time. I even tried making a timeline on a big piece of posterboard for one book I was writing, and you can figure out how much that helped me when I tell you that I’ve only written about twenty pages on that story to date. But writing is not like cooking (thankfully, because as you all might remember I am abysmal at cooking). There is no recipe that says, if you takes these ingredients in these quantities and put them together in this manner, you will end up with a product in a specific amount of time.
The more I read, the more I realized how personalized writing a book can be. Some people keep a notebook for each book they write, where they jot down ideas and impressions as they come to them, and create an outline and a character list. Some people start their book from the end, and some people start it from the middle. Some people write the big, important scenes in the story, and then just fill in and connect them together later.
There is literally just no right way. You simply have to work through the process of finding out what works for you. I wrote probably between 50-75 pages from the time I started my book as a sophomore in college to when I graduated, parceled out over three years. Then, after I graduated, I revisited the book and wrote about that same amount in a couple months. Then I got sick of my book and abandoned it, only to open it again in around November of 2013 and finish it in February of 2014, feverishly writing about 100 pages in four months. Writing just came to me in weird spurts and starts, generally in the middle of the night and in huge chunks. Anytime I tried to plan out my plot ahead of time or make an outline, nothing would come to me. Or, I would decide to write the story one way, and then suddenly I would just be writing something else and the characters would just be doing things and I would be just as surprised as someone who had never looked at my book before.

Three weeks, ha, try three days.

What I’m trying to say is that the only correct way to write a book is the way that gets it done.

5. You will hate your book at some point.

As I mentioned, this book took me nearly four years to write, and that’s partially because I hated it for a collective period of about two years. During college, I periodically worked on it and periodically hated it deeply and pretended it didn’t exist. The first half of the book was edited over and over again, because I would open it with the intent to write more on it, end up reading what I had, discover it was awful, and then go back and extensively edit what I already had. I fell back in love with it after graduation and managed to accomplish about as much as I had in the previous threeish years in just a few months. Then I read one of the best books I’d read in the past few years whilst in the midst of this writing fury (I DO NOT RECOMMEND), and subsequently fell into a decided and violent hatred of my book, essentially convincing myself that it was the worst ever and I would never be a talented writer.

The only reason I probably ended up finishing this book was because I reopened it months later and realized I had a really large chunk of a novel written. So I thought to myself, eh, might as well finish it! Then, after I reread what I had on my Kindle (an extremely handy editing tool) I fell back in love with it. The closer I got to the end, the more I loved it and wanted to finish it– until finally one day it was done.

6. Finishing a book is one of the most euphoric feelings a writer will ever know.

The night I finished my novel, I cried because I was so happy. It was like that feeling you get at the end of an amazing novel except times ten, because it was the end of MY novel. I couldn’t seem to believe it, that I had written an entire book from my own hands. The whole thing that makes writing hard, the fact that it comes entirely from you and you do all the work, is the same thing that makes finishing a book so amazing, because you have DONE IT ALL. When my best friend Skye read it, she told me that she would forget I had written it until suddenly she would think “SARA wrote this, HOW WAS THIS ALL JUST IN HER HEAD.” And the only thing I could say was that I didn’t know either. I don’t know where it all came from or how I had an entire story just there inside my head that I actually managed to translate into words and pages and dialogue. I read my own book and couldn’t seem to believe that all of that had come from me.

IT’S LIKE I’M POSSESSED

I used to scoff when I was younger at writers who said that the characters just did what they wanted and had a mind of their own, and they just wrote it down. I found the idea ridiculous; you’re the one writing the story, and making it all up! But I have been converted–I now know this to be the gospel truth. Most of the time, writing feels like I’m just watching this movie play out in my head, and I’m just frantically trying to keep up and write down what I’m seeing as it happens. To me, my characters are real and they exist, and I am as emotionally invested in their lives as I am in my own. The culmination of their story, therefore, affects me as much as if I’d found my own happy ending. In finishing this novel, I took a piece of my heart and soul and typed it into a Word document.

7. You can always assume that you have missed something while editing.

After finishing my novel, I knew I had a great deal of editing to do. I went through and read it on my Kindle, making notes of every mistake I made and every part I needed to change slightly, and spent a couple weeks fixing it.  Then I read it again and edited it more. Then I read it AGAIN and edited it even more. Next I let my sister read it, and fixed all the new mistakes I had made while in the process of editing. By this point, a few people had asked to read it, but I had to make sure I’d edited it enough so that I didn’t embarrass myself.

NO NO NO IT’S NOT READY YET

Even after I let my friend Skye read it, she STILL found mistakes for me to edit. It is a seemingly endless process.
(Funny fact: the header for this said “You can always assumed that you have missed something while editing.” until I went back an edited it for like the third time.) 

 

8. Letting someone read your book for the first time is the most terrifying feeling ever.

I am closer to my sister than any person on earth. We are like the same person essentially. But letting her read my story was even nerve-wracking. When I then turned my book over to my best friend Skye and next my best friend Tiffany to read, I honestly thought I was going to vomit. It didn’t matter that I loved it, that Rae said it was great– I was convinced that they were going to hate it and think it was the most awful book ever written, but worst of all they were going to have to pretend that it was good just because they were my best friends. Like I said, in writing this book I wrote part of my heart and soul on to every page, and I felt like I was essentially opening my chest and exposing it to them to crush if they so desired. It was AWFUL. But luckily, they were both wonderful and complimentary and very helpful in what they told me about it. It was a balm to my terrified soul.
What I eventually accepted was that I had written a novel, I was damn proud of the fact, and people would either like it or they wouldn’t. What mattered was that I loved and was happy with it– because if you don’t believe in yourself as a writer, nobody else is going to either.
Of course, that does not mean that I am one hundred percent comfortable telling everyone that my novel is a historical romance replete with things like kissing. For the people who I don’t expect to ever read my book or don’t want to let read my book, you just come up with the blandest description imaginable.

“It’s set in London in the 19th century and it’s about a girl whose sister gets kidnapped and she’s trying to find her andddd… ummmm…. Yep. That’s it. Nothing exciting, really.”

I’ve already told my parents that I’m very sorry, but they can never, ever read it, and that’s all there is to it.

9. Publishing a book is harder than writing a book.

Now, there might be people who quibble with me here, but as I am deep in the throes of trying to figure out how to publish my book, I am firm on this point. Publishing is terrifying, confusing, depressing, and overwhelming. What I have discovered is that most major publishing companies don’t even accept unsolicited manuscripts–this means you can’t send them your book unless you have an agent that can contact them and set it up. And from what I’ve managed to learn, getting a reputable agent is even more difficult than actually publishing a book.
I have found only three major publishers of romance novels that will even accept unsolicited manuscripts. And, let me drop a piece of information on you that I would have LOVED to know before I started writing my novel– all of these companies have specific word count requirements for the manuscripts they will accept.
As you probably know if you read this blog, I have a tendency to be rather long-winded. I have always been that way; when I was writing essays in school I always had to edit them down. I have never had a problem with meeting a word count, only exceeding it. I’ve just discovered that I have a lot to say. When I was writing my novel, I had no real idea exactly how long it actually was, because Word document pages don’t exactly translate into real book pages. I knew it was pretty long, and my word count was high, but I had no idea just how long it was until I finished writing it and started googling average lengths for romance novels. Apparently that average is between 80-100,000 words.
I have approximately 130,000 words.
Of the three publishers that might accept my manuscript, the highest acceptable word count was 120,000, and the other two companies highest were 100,000 and 95,000.
I don’t know how to explain to you just how difficult it is to consider trying to cut out 30-35,000 words from the novel you just spent four years laboring to finish. And of course it was especially disheartening to read these articles saying if your book is long then it means you’re a bad writer and you don’t know how to edit and blah blah lots of other depressing things.
Well, duh, I’ve never written a book before so no, I DON’T really know how to go about editing it. And even though it’s admittedly very long and I am sure I am biased, I don’t think the book really drags that much–it’s just that a lot of stuff happens and it takes a few pages to explain it. Of course I’m sure that there’s plenty of editing that could be done to it to make it shorter– but 35,000 words worth? I just don’t know if I can do that.
And so I started considering the option of self-publishing. It’s easier than ever for writers to self-publish their book cheaply with things like Kindle and Nook and the whole world of ebooks. If I self-publish, there would be no restrictions on the word limit. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.
But then I started actually reading about self-publishing, and I started getting just as confused and worried as I did with regular publishing. Which platform would be the best to use if I did self-publish? How do I format my book correctly? How do I create a cover for my novel? What is all this stuff about royalties and fees? And if I did self-publish, how big of an audience would I really be reaching?
Turns out self-publishing is not quite as easy as it initially sounds.
And so I find myself stuck in this strange limbo, wondering which direction I should go in. So far, the best I can think of is that maybe I will self-publish the full length version, try and see what feedback I can get on it, while simultaneously working on making a much shorter version that I could send in to publishers. Just when I find I’ve FINALLY completed my novel and I’m ready to share it with the world, it seems that I’ve got a whole world’s worth of work in front of me.

10. No matter how rough the first one was, before you know it you’ll be starting on your next novel.

Seriously, guys. It was  barely two months from the moment I had finished the first one– not even like from when I edited it or let other people read it or started researching publishing companies– literally from the moment I finished it mid-February that I opened up a new Word document and started working on the sequel. I’M NOT EVEN DONE EDITING THE FIRST ONE. I just couldn’t help myself, the characters were already there in my head and clamoring to be heard.
17 pages already in that one, everybody.
At least this time, I know about the word count thing.

Go big or go home.

The Things We Do For Fame

Hey guys!
Today’s post is short and to the point–pretty much an unprecedented thing on this blog haha.
When I made my Single Lady’s Calendar a couple months ago with the help of the incomparable Cindy Benton, I thought for sure I had found my ticket to fame. Things started out great, with lots of my wonderful, amazing friends and followers sharing it on Facebook and setting a new record number of views my blog has received in one day. But things didn’t go quite as I hoped from there. It got repinned quite a few times on Pinterest, but never managed to really catch on, and after a few days views were back to their normal level.
But, modest as they were, I had higher hopes for our hard work.

SUPER modest.

And so, in an effort to get famous, I have turned my Single Lady’s Calendar into a Buzzfeed post–because we all know you’re not really famous until you’ve made it onto Buzzfeed. Go big or go home right?
Unfortunately, it’s sort of difficult to just make yourself famous– but that’s where you guys come in. I have some of the kindest, most encouraging, just all around wonderful followers imaginable on this blog, and I am now throwing myself on your mercy.
I am BEGGING you all to help me out– please check out my post, and just share the heck out of it. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, WordPress itself–the more shares the post gets, the higher up on Buzzfeed it goes and the more people see it.
As you all might have gathered, my dream is to make a career out of this writing thing, whatever form that might take. The exposure that gettin’ famous on Buzzfeed could give me would enormously increase my chances for more opportunities.
So there you have it– you all hold my fragile, trembling dreams in your very hands, and you have the power to send them flying into the stars… or crush them into tiny bits of dust and cat hairs.
But no big deal, guys.

Here is the link to the Buzzfeed post:  //www.buzzfeed.com/saraashleighr/the-single-ladys-calendar-bhoz
It has the option to share via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and Email.
For even more options, you can use the buttons at the bottom of this post to share this post and at least spread the word.
I’ll also be putting an updated note in the original Single Lady’s post on this blog with links to the Buzzfeed post, and you can feel free to share that as well.

But whether you choose to share this on every social media site known to man or you just shake your head at the pushy girl desperately promoting her blog, I still want to sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking even the brief moment to read this in the first place.
YOU ARE THE BEST.