The insanity of 2020: Goals, life's obstacles (hello, PCD) and the writing journey
What a paradox. We’re big on paradoxes, us Romanians. Or maybe it’s just my Transylvanian peeps? (No offense to anyone else!). But isn’t it the biggest paradox that it’s in 2020, the year of craziness and the world turning upside down, that I get to achieve my goals? And see a bigger leap forward than ever before? Call me crazy, but it’s worth reflecting over.
Most of you know that prior to 2020 and the world of Covid-19, I got a concussion in August 2019 – really stupidly, by the way. No fancy story here. I slipped on a wet bathroom floor after washing my lab and banged my head.
Anyway, when I was in that emergency room and the doctor was telling me I’d have to go 2 weeks without a screen, I thought I would die. Dramatic, I know. And it had nothing to do with my need for social media (never could get used to it).
The only thing in my head, over and over, was: how the hell am I going to write if I can’t look at a screen?
See, back then, I was in the middle of writing my… I’m not too sure, to be honest. 3rd? 4th novel of that year, probably. Blazing Ashes. And I was quite literally only a few chapters off from the ending, in order to complete the proper first draft.
So, a doctor telling me that I was to be without screens, well, yeah it seemed like the end of the world. Writing is what makes my days happy – besides my hubby and dogs, of course. Writing is LIFE. It’s how I breathe. If I don’t write a day, even if it’s just a small scene, my mood tanks. When I say I need it as much as I need my air, I’m not lying. Even when I’ve been on vacation, I find myself writing. Over the holidays? On my birthday? Yep, wrote then too. I have too many stories to hold in me, and I want them all out in the world. At once! Which is not realistic, I know, so I settled for second best.
Anyway. So, what did I do back when the doc was firm about me not using screens?
Well, the second week into that “recovery,” I decided to write by hand. I figured: notebook, pen, why not? It wasn't really using a screen. And so long as I was getting my writing fix (yes, I realize that makes me sound addicted - there are worse things to be addicted to), I saw nothing wrong with it.
It helped. For those of you that never had a concussion, well, try not doing anything for 2 weeks. NO-THING. Nothing. At all. Basically, according to the doctor, I was to sit on my couch and stare at the ceiling and let the days go by. Of course, I later learned how that wasn’t helping my concussion recovery – you are, actually, supposed to try to do little things to get back in the hang of things, but in tiny doses and being mindful of your brain’s signals. Too much stimuli can be counterproductive, too little, also counterproductive. But that’s another story for another time.
Note: I’m not trying to give medical advice here. If you have a concussion or have been diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome after a concussion, please follow your doctor’s advice.
Anyway, back to 2019 (and there’s a reason I’m talking about 2019 when this post is to be about 2020, bear with me). I did finish Blazing Ashes – although it wouldn’t see the light of publication until earlier this year. Editing took a lot longer, what with me getting back in the hang of things. But it kept me busy, it kept me writing, and best of all, it kept my mood from tanking all over the place.
And after Blazing Ashes, I went back to my day job. Had a real hard time with it. I’d thought, if I was able to write, that the job would be easy. Nope. I didn’t take into account a lot of things. Between brain fog, migraines, inability to concentrate, constant dizzy spells and a dozen more symptoms, I wasn’t doing well. The only relief came from tiny writing sprints at the end of my days, followed by loads of sleep.
In October 2019, my doctor told me there was a reason for all this. I had passed the point of “concussion” and had gone into “post-concussion syndrome.” I’m borrowing a definition from Mayoclinic.org explains PCD better than I could: “persistent post-concussive symptoms, also called post-concussion syndrome, occurs when concussion symptoms last beyond the expected recovery period after the initial injury. The usual recovery period is weeks to months. These symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, and problems with concentration and memory.”
Long story short, I was screwed. One of the reasons why PCD happens (in as much as I was able to determine after countless days of research) is if you have chornic pain issues prior to a concussion. In my case, I’d had migraines, and those did not go away…they got worse. Once again, my doctor put me on leave from work for another 2 weeks (the day job stress was not conducive to a proper recovery; writing, oddly, was). And in those two weeks, I knew I had a choice. Either give in to the depression, the mood swings, the feelings I was unable to do anything right. The constant regrets of how a stupid, stupid choice ended up messing me up. The feelings that nothing would ever be right again. I could forget my dreams and my hopes and everything I wanted to do.
I could do all that. And be miserable forever.
Or, I could pick myself up, dust myself off, and do what made me happy. In short bursts, in easy tasks that could be accomplished while I recovered and attended physiotherapy for PCD. I knew I loved writing and being healthy and hiking; PCD was meant to interfere with all of that, and I was determined not to let it touch any of it.
How did I wrap up 2019? With another book release. Not just that, but it was the last in my paranormal romance wolf series, Moonlight Rogues. And I got it done between September and end-November 2019, releasing it December 31, 2019. I’d worked hard before for every release, but this particular one? It gutted me. A lot of it because Lucas, the MC, and I have a lot in common and I dug deep to make sure he was as real as could be on the page. And a lot of it was also because of the stress involved around every release, not to mention the holiday period.
But I did it.
And wrapping up that year with one last release was all the encouragement I needed. I was determined to make 2020 count, and to not give in. To be the best version of myself I could be. To work out, to bust my ass off, and to burn the candle at both ends if need be, because I had something to prove.
And, as I found out, that’s the hardest things to prove, most times. It’s not what you do to prove something to your friends, or your family, but it’s what you do for you that can have the biggest impact on you.
By the time New Year’s Day rolled around, when I decided to launch Lucas’ story, I made a pact with myself. That no matter what the headaches and other symptoms would bring, I would make 2020 work FOR me, and not against me.
And you know what? It has. I don’t know if it’s sheer will or Romanian stubbornness or a mix of the two… But instead of lessening my workload this year, especially after starting a new day job, I decided to keep pursuing my dream. I wasn’t going to give up.
So, while juggling my 9-5 job, I got more serious about LIAS (Luna Imprints Author Services - my editing services business), cranked up the volume and dusted the cobwebs off some courses I’d been wanting to learn (among which Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors and Self-Pub 101), dove deep into marketing non-fiction books from Chris Fox, Nicholas Erik, David Gaughran and the like…
And the results? Wow. All I can say, is wow. My dream started manifesting into reality in front of my eyes. Now I don't mean that the skies opened and my dream poured out - I may write fantasy, but I don't live in one :) This was all the result of hard work, and a lot of it started way before my concussion. But it was after it that instead of giving up, I got stronger; pushed harder. Demanded more of myself.
I worked out and continued hiking, finding new trails around my house and not only got over my sunlight aversion (not vampire-related, I promise; it’s a PCD symptom), but also got in even better shape! Plus, I got my dogs into just a better shape, and the fresh air helped my brain re-acclimatize itself with being happy. Gone were my miserable moods, replaced instead with oxygen and a thirst for life.
Through LIAS, I was able to help out fellow authors achieve the best versions of their books they could. 2020 culminated in having a roster of recurring, happy clients, and I’m looking forward to what 2021 will bring in their stead.
But the best part of my 2020?
With COVID-19, my workplace shifted to allowing us to work from home. Which meant I was saving on a 2-hour commute, and able to just wake up and get into things. It also save my head from the headaches associated with said commute, and lessened my PCD symptoms more.
I started waking up a bit earlier – that wasn’t easy. I’m not a morning person. But I did it anyway, all to write. And when I couldn’t, I focused on finding other times during the day to write. Whenever I took a break or a lunch, or right after work, I’d dive into writing. Non-stop, each day, every day.
In early spring, I released my new dragon shifter duology, a whooping 164 340 words. Two back-to-back releases, one month apart (if you're wondering if I'm about to repeat that, just stay tuned for Spring 2021!).
In summer, I wrapped up edits and finally released Blazing Ashes, at 84 000 words.
I worked on a short 8880 word short story for a mental health anthology, that I ended up releasing to my newsletter subscribers only. It focuses on post-concussion syndrome, and I wanted to be candid and open with them. It was also the most cathartic piece of writing I've written all year.
Then I ran survey of my subscribers to ask them what series they’d like me to focus on next… leading to the expansion of my Rogues Universe – now called REU. It’s not Marvel-sized, but it’s sure bigger than I ever expected it to be :)
The survey results told me my subscribers wanted more paranormal romance from me - more vamps, more anything. So… I decided to do a little contest with myself. 30 days, 60 000 words. These would be split between two novellas (that incidentally start my Demoni Sancti and Immortal Rogues series) and… I managed 50k of those. Yes, this while doing the full-time job and the side business. I’m not saying this to brag, but to show you that it is possible. Put your mind to it, whatever it is for you, and you can achieve it.
I did all this while doing courses, reading as much as I could between breaks, on weekends, hell, I even brought my notebook with me while out hiking!
Those two novellas, the ones written in a month? They’ve now been edited and stand at 40k and 34k, and were released Nov 21 (Fallen) and Dec 31 (Secret Shadows), rounding up my total releases for the year to 6 books. Oh, and I forgot the Moonlight Rogues Boxset. So, 7 releases. I don’t count it because it was already written, but I did have to do some formatting magic so it wasn’t without its hiccups (thank you, LIAS team!).
And best of all? I’m also super excited to have finished the first novel in my co-author series! All I can share is it’s PNR and it breaks fuzziness to a whole new level! :D My co-author, Siobhan C., and I basically worked on an off through our free time on this bear shifter paranormal romance. Book 1 now stands at 100k, and we’re even working on a collection of short stories to accompany it! We’re writing all 7 books in the series before releasing them, so you won’t get to have a sneak peek just yet, but it’s coming!
All that to say…
2020 was hard. Covid-19 affected my family and my friends and even friends’ friends. But I think my mindset in not letting it put me down, and instead shifting my mind to what I can control, helped me get through it. I learned a lot of things about myself and the limits I can push myself to.
I also learned that I could write 423 000 words in a year (not taking into account Blazing Ashes, but taking into account the unpublished books), headaches be damned, if I put my mind to it :)
When my doctors and neurologist told me I’d have these post-concussion syndrome symptoms for as long as I’ll have them, I was sad. Depressed, even. But I swore to myself I’d never let anything get between me and what I love to do… and so far? I dare say I haven’t.
2021 will be a whirlwind of more releases and more books being written, but for now… I’m going to take a moment and soak it all in. January is a bit of a breather month where I’m focusing on more family time, more puppy time, more reading, more marketing…but also some side-writing.
7 releases. Over 420k words written. I hit the international Amazon bestseller charts in Canada, UK and Australia. In December, I had over 100k pages read in Kindle Unlimited! That might not sound like much if you’re in the high-ranking authors niche, but to me, it was a goal I’d wanted to hit since I first started out on this journey :)
I’m amazed, and proud, and just eager for more. Always more. Even with a messed-up wrist right now (my right, dominant one), I’ve found new ways like dictation or shorter writing spans followed by icing my wrist to do it.
So yeah, 2020 has been insane. In the best possible way. And 2021? It’ll be even crazier!
Starting with some serious Transylvanian vampires and another co-author project I'm working on, something that's been in the works for ages :)
If there’s one thing I learned this year, is how much our limitations come from ourselves. We are our worst enemy. And in a time of a pandemic, the best service we can do for ourselves is to focus. Find that one goal, that one thing we’ve been wanting to do, and focus. Keep going at it, bit by bit, baby step by baby step. Because it all adds up.
If you’re wondering how to get started writing more, one thing I’d say is grab Chris Fox’s book, Lifelong writing habitand 5000 words per hour. They’re part of an 8-book series that is amazing and full of good stuff.
If all of that sounds daunting, don’t let it be. It’s meant to be encouraging. Because regardless of what our weaknesses are, and what’s going on in the world, we can still choose the kind of life we want.