2016 began with me thrilled to have a new beta reader for When Life Hands You Lymes (WLHYL). At that time I didn’t have the slightest clue the journey WLHYL and I would go on during the next twelve months. If I had known, I probably would have freaked out.
One of the biggest accomplishments of the year was something I worked on for a five years and finished in January – I finally got my drivers license. Yeah, crazy, right? It’s a llooonnngggg story….
Near the end of the month I headed to Florida for our annual business meetings, and visiting with relatives. Editing came, too, and some nights I worked on WLHYL for four or five hours. I’d gone on Paleo during December with a strict 100-day-in-a-row goal, and although that was helping me, January still wasn’t a spectacular month as far as health goes. (I had Lyme disease for seven years. I’m thankfully over it, but some health issues still pop up randomly.) One day when I was feeling especially bad I ended up in tears because I was sad my sisters didn’t take my characters more seriously. The next day my youngest sister bought a dozen roses for Maddie (my main character), which was incredibly sweet and supportive.
Sometimes blog posts stick out in my mind. When I see the title I can picture exactly where I was when I wrote it, what was going on around me, and what my thought process was. The “Around the World” posts – a fiction series I started in January and kept up until July – were like that during February. Because of the nature of the series, I couldn’t write or plan ahead, and so during busy times it was a challenge to slip in the research and writing time. Several times I sat in the room we were using as a pantry so I could write. I also answered emails while standing in a tiny nook that housed the washer, with my computer on the washer lid.
Dad said at the beginning of 2016 that he’d read WLHYL if I got a physical copy for him. I was thrilled – not only to have him read it, but also to hold a copy of WLHYL. I continued editing WLHYL the entire month – it was daunting but the encouraging feedback I received from Dad made it worthwhile.
Around the middle of the month a friend said he was training for a half-marathon and asked if I wanted to, too. My health had improved a lot, so I was excited to join in. Only, I wanted to do the full marathon, not just the half. My best friend, Sarah, decided to join us, too.
My first co-authored nonfiction book, Cool Critters of the Ice Age was released in Spanish soon after I arrived home from Florida. I also realized I needed to immerse myself in what it was like to be a musician so I could write Maddie’s character better, and I went to my adopted parents to help build a dinosaur.
While at my adopted parent’s house the saga of WLHYL’s transformation continued. After listening to tons of advice from current beta readers, emailing old beta readers to request their opinions, talking it over with my dad, discussing it with friends, and praying about it, I made the decision to merge WLHYL with it’s sequel, and cut the 150,000 words down majorly. It was overwhelming, exciting, terrifying, and exhausting all at the same time. During the next few weeks I spent many hours working on re-writing the plot to WHLYL, re-crafting my vision, and researching.
I took a break from reading fiction for a few months, and in retrospect I realize that was detrimental to my creativity. No fiction combined with large amounts of editing wore away at me, and by the time March arrived I was feeling the most uncreative I can ever remember feeling. Not only did I feel uncreative, I felt uninspired and uninspiring. When I finally realized how big of a problem it had become, I took immediate action.
First I made a conscious habit of seeing everything through the eyes of creativity. Then I deep cleaned and rearranged my office while listening to an audio book. Then I went to the craft store and bought a bucketload of crafts. I set up a folding table in my office for a craft station, then I made myself make time to work on the crafts each day. Within a few days I was feeling much more chipper, and within a few weeks I felt as creative – if not more so – than ever.
One of my highlights of the month was reaching 100 days of eating Paleo, and walking/running ten miles in two hours and twenty-five minutes. Both were huge milestones for me that I’d never accomplished before. My sister and I celebrated together by going out to eat for my birthday and then spending the day together. (Shh! No, you don’t need to remember that my birthday is in September. Our lives our busy.)
April was delightful month. My health had been steadily improving, my creativity was back, and merging WLHYL and the sequel were going well. I took part in the A to Z Blogging Challenge with the theme of Creativity (what else?) which was fun.
Our family went to Mexico, and I spent many hours sitting out on the beach or in the comfortable lobby, drinking delicious coffee, eating special desserts, and editing like crazy. I chopped, rewrote, reimagined, and chopped some more. I’d finally gotten to the point where I was throughly excited to see where WLHYL was going, and sending updates to various beta readers and hearing their responses helped keep me motivated.
In addition to all the writerly things, I had a fantastic time hanging out with family and friends, snorkeling, riding a spinnaker, driving a speedboat, catching up on some reading, journaling, and of course training for the marathon.
May arrived with the Mexico adventure continuing as our family stayed at a rental house on the beach. I spent hours each day walking on the beach, reading books for review, and editing. I had a deadline for the draft I was working on, because of a deadline one of the beta readers had. I may have stayed up until nearly five the morning of the deadline, so I could send the book off. The plan was to receive edits back from two beta readers, and work like crazy to make the changes, so I could once again send out the book to a whole crew of beta readers.
In-between the two drafts of WLHYL I ramped up on my walking, and eventually completed my wildly exciting (for me, at least), childhood goal of walking a whole marathon length at one time. Unfortunately I hadn’t realized that walking for eight hours straight – with about sixteen of the miles being barefoot on the sand – would be a stress to my body, so it’s not something I recommend. (A marathon? Sure! Just, not an eight-hour one.)
When the two beta readers sent their feedback back, I got right to work at cutting, re-writing, editing, and changing the book once again. Then finally the day before we went home, I was able to send the book out to a whole bunch of amazing beta readers. (And in the process I might have swung so much on the old swing in the yard that it broke. Thankfully the yard was sand, so the landing was soft.) By the way, thank you again to all the beta readers who so kindly invested their time into WLHYL this year. The list is huge and I feel incredibly grateful for all you’ve done. Thank You Hosanna, Kaitlyn, Jason, Amanda, Keturah, Olivia, Ashley, Aaron, Kate, Kayla, Hannah, Hannah W., Aubrey, Melissa, my Dad, Grace Mae, Jade, Beth, Emma, and Mary. Y’all. Wow. Just wow.
We hadn’t even been home a week when I got to (unexpectedly) accompany my dad to Colorado. It was delightful, special, memorable, beautiful, and (because of some friends who were having difficulties) somewhat somber. I had nothing to do on WLHYL, so I enjoyed fully engaging in our time there. Going to the top of Pike’s Peak was one of my highlights.
Ah, the busyness of summer arrived full blast. The retreat where I work was pretty much my home for half the month. It was fun and fulfilling.
During June I visited my sister and her family who live several states away. Sadly I was sick with strep throat for most of the visit – although we didn’t realize what it was until after I went home. I was sick for nearly half of the month until I got on antibiotics.
During a big retreat my adopted mom texted late one night saying they were on the way to the hospital. My adopted dad had a heart attack while singing in Montana, and was flown to Bismarck, North Dakota. At first they thought they’d be able to fly home for him to have open-heart surgery, but eventually the doctors said it was too risky. Those were a couple of difficult days for me. I wanted so badly to be with them, but there wasn’t any point in my flying out if they were coming back home. So, I stayed and continued cooking at the retreat. Thankfully I had a fantastically supportive staff working with me, and they prayed for me and encouraged me, made me laugh, and kept everything going during the moments where I just needed to curl up and cry.
As soon as I heard my adopted parents were staying in North Dakota for the surgery, we booked tickets and my dad and I hopped on a plane and flew to join them.
July was a strange month. Sitting in a hospital waiting room seemed to zap my imagination, focus, and interests dry. I barely even read, and editing was a total no-go.
Despite that, there is no way I would change being with my adopted parents during that time. I have a feeling I wouldn’t have been able to focus on anything even if I hadn’t been at the hospital. I’m so thankful God spared papa’s life, and although his recovery felt slow at times, he’s doing amazingly well now.
When we finally flew back to Ohio, I stayed an additional couple of weeks with my adopted parents. It’s the longest I’d ever gone without my siblings (although I did get to see them one day), and I missed them a lot. Again though, I wouldn’t have traded that time. Thankfully once we were out of the hospital I was able to focus some, and I spent hours on my adopted parent’s porch editing another draft of WLHYL.
I arrived home just in time for another retreat. But, before I’d even been home a week, I headed back to the airport. This time to fly to Florida for some family time with my grandparents.
I was thrilled to catch up on sibling time. We played games, made memories, and I focused on the 15th draft of WLHYL, and once again worked on training for the marathon. I also went strict Paleo again – something I hadn’t worked at while at the hospital.
When I finished the 15th draft of WLHYL I rewarded myself by finishing writing the first draft of City of Outcasts, a story I had started the year before. Working on it was delightful, because Princesses, people. They’re the best. (I’m planning on becoming a princess myself – whenever I figure out how to make it work.)
Being someplace with a TV during the Olympics was a prayer answered and dream come true. The ladies gymnastics are my favorite. It made being Paleo and training for the marathon seem easier. I’m not into sports other than the Olympics, but they’re one of my favorite things.
August singled the arrival of some of my most wonderful friends who live in Asia. I nearly went crazy waiting to see Hosanna and Melody, and was thrilled when they came for a visit right after we got back from Florida.
I was also blessed with another darling little nephew mid-way through the month. He’s a cute little sweetheart.
Overall it was a great month, although my health was in a bit of a tailspin. I continued eating Paleo, but sadly I had to stop most of my marathon training.
September started out with a bang as I posted my first vlog – another dream I’ve had for years. I also started the 16th draft of WLHYL which included accepting and rejecting thousands of small (and sometimes not-so-small) changes a very kind beta reader had meticulously made.
As the month progressed my thyroid gave me some issues (a left-over from Lyme disease), and I realized I might not be able to run the marathon. I set aside everything I could to focus on training, but unfortunately that didn’t help. I continued eating Paleo and working on my health.
I finished writing City of Outcasts during September, and spent tons of time researching WordPress blogs and getting everything set up to switch from Blogger. I also had some busy weeks at my non-writing job, and Hosanna and Melody were able to come and hang out again, so yay!
The end of the month arrived with a flurry of activity at home, plus my twenty-fourth birthday. My rat, Autumn, was approaching the end of her lifespan, so for my birthday I began looking for a bunny to buy. My adopted parents came for my birthday, and my sisters decorated the table with a cute bookish theme. A special birthday treat was chatting with my wonderful friend, Kaitlyn, for the first time. We’d been emailing for months, so chatting was extremely fun.
The month ended with Sarah suggesting a last-minute sleepover, which was delightful.
October reminded me of how incredibly blessed I am with all the connections I’ve made through blogging. Y’all rock.
Mid-October came all too fast, and yet almost not fast enough. The day before the marathon a group of us traveled together to Columbus. I had five friends and family members participating with me, including a friend who flew in from Georgia. We had to register the day before, so that night after exploring the expo area, we went to Chipotle (which is the best), and then spent the night at a relatives house. I’d decided I would only run the half marathon due to a lot of advice I’d received. It was a hard to let go of the dream of the whole marathon, but it was worth it.
The half-marathon was one of my most favorite things I’ve ever done. It was a benefit for the Children’s Hospital, and it was so. crazy. inspiring and encouraging. I ended up doing the 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 37 minutes, which was far faster than my pervious time. I’m so thankful God allowed me to have the stamina I needed to complete the race.
October continued being busy – including several retreats at my non-writing job, and having Hosanna and Melody come to visit yet again. We celebrated the completion of the half-marathon with ice cream. A group of us also went camping – a gift from Sarah for my birthday. It was wonderfully amazing and made me extremely happy.
The month ended with me finding out why my thyroid had gone all wacko, and what I could do to help it. October wasn’t the best health wise, but God gave me a lot of grace. I was thrilled to find out that one of the thyroid issues I’d dealt with for nearly ten years was finally gone. Praise God for amazing steps forward!
November dawned busy, beautiful, and far too warm to feel real. There was more busyness at my non-writing job that I’d been worried about, but God worked everything out fantastically. Hosanna and Melody were able to come and visit (again!), which was glorious indeed.
I finally made the move from Blogger over to WordPress, which included a lot of research, trial and error, and feeling like I was in way too far over my head. I didn’t make the switch correctly and lost a lot of followers which was sad.
Receiving my first ARC was something I’ve dreamed of ever since I found out they existed. Yay! Between reading for reviews, switching to WordPress, and working with my non-writing job, Thanksgiving arrived rapidly.
Thanksgiving week ushered in beautiful family time, memorable days, games, delicious food, a random and totally unplanned 5K, late nights, and lots of happy little children. Autumn, my sweet little rat, died Thanksgiving night, which was sad, but not unexpected. My nieces and nephews helped me bury her. On Saturday I bought two bunnies. Scribbles Monticello and Whimsical Ink live under my writing table and keep me company as I work.
My biggest focus during December was to research query letters, and agents.
I spent hours reading blogs, books, websites, and I watched quite a few YouTube videos about finding agent, agent interviews, how to write query letters, etc… I also searched and searched and searched for comp titles. The process was overwhelming, but I had some great support.
I spent a week in Florida, visiting relatives again, then went to the Ark Encounter and saw my book in the gift shop. Then I spent several days at the Creation Museum with my adopted parents, and then I headed back to the Ark Encounter for another visit before going home.
While in Kentucky I received the news that I had another darling little niece, bringing the niece and nephew count up to thirteen. Yay!
Christmas Day was lovely with fantastic family time. My brother, dad, and I stayed up until four in the morning playing a game. I’m so incredibly blessed by my family.
This last week of 2016 I’ve accomplished tons on the query letter, and thanks to the help of some amazing friends, I’m ready to begin querying! I’ve also been researching agents a lot, and it’s confusing, yet intriguing.
Overall this year has been extremely blessed and amazing. Looking back at what’s happened in the last twelve months I’m filled with gratitude for all I’ve been able to experience, help with, and do.
I only had two reading goals this year. 1: Review every single book I read, and 2: Read 35 nonfiction books. Reviewing every book was a new experience, yet oh so good for me. Thanks to Goodreads it was also relatively easy. I read 98 books in 2016, including 43 nonfiction books. The most nonfiction books I’d previously read in one year was somewhere in the twenties.
Traveling was a big part of 2016. The most I was gone in a month was 24 nights (July), and the only month that I was home every single night was November. Altogether I was gone 131 nights in 2016. (Which is amusing considering I was gone 125 nights in 2015, and 131 nights in 2014. How it stays so consistent is beyond me.)
This year was an extremely happy and blessed year with relationships. I’m incredibly thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had to get to know people better. I began helping out with the second through fourth grader’s Sunday School classes at church, and I love those kids so much. Sunday morning is literally my favorite time of the week. Our church also started a group for College and Career aged people, and that’s been good to get involved with.
The amount of blogging/writing/beta reading friends I have is astounding to me. It’s common for me to write twenty-plus emails each week to people I’ve met through blogging. I feel utterly blessed by all y’all! I’ve also had fun getting to chat with some friends, and even some snail mail. Bekah and Beth have both been a hugely amazing encouragement to me as I’ve worked on WLHYL, and wow. I’m so blown away by the amazing people I have in my life.
I’m so thankful for all God has allowed me to do in 2016, and I’m eagerly looking forward to 2017!