This last year and a half has been one of extreme highs and lows. I’ve been through a lot, and I’m finally ready to share what’s happened. As you know, writing is often the best salve, since it allows you to pour out your emotions on the page without fear of immediate judgement (from everyone but yourself, that is).
The death of my father-in-law
I’ve always had a great relationship with my in-laws, even before my husband and I were married. We all have a deep love for reading, writing, good movies, and politics so we clicked almost immediately. My own father passed away ten years ago, so the relationship I had with my father-in-law was special because he became a second father to me. He offered advice and care when I needed it, was always there for a laugh, and he made it a point to read what I wrote and let me know his thoughts. But he was older, in his late 70s, and his health was declining. He was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood disorder that affected his platelet count. When he had a heart attack and went to the emergency room, we were given the most devastating news – he had a mild heart attack, and there wasn’t much they could do. The blood thinners they’d put other patients on would not work because of his low platelets. But if we did nothing, he’d likely have another heart attack. We were in a catch-22 for the better part of the summer. After several weeks in and out of the hospital, and after his 80th birthday, he passed away. In a weird way, I felt that my experience having lost my own father helped my husband cope, because I could let him know what to expect in terms of his emotions and those of others.
I got married
I married my best friend on October 12th, 2018. It was a breathtaking ceremony and reception, filled with some of the people I love most in the world. As anyone who’s planned a wedding knows, it is of the most fun yet stressful things to do. My planning process was filled with more drama than I cared for – from conflicts with my family flying in from the West Coast, to nearly firing my wedding decorator to my mother being late for every wedding-related function, including the wedding itself. In the end, though, there’s nothing I would have changed. We got married by one of our best friends as the sun set over the Chattahoochee river. We had photos of both of our fathers on a table, surrounded by candles. My sister sang “Ribbon in the Sky.” Every speech was wonderful and reminded us just how loved we are. Our first dance was “The Very Thought of You.” I danced so hard one of the straps to my dress broke. Our honeymoon was all I’ve ever wanted – we went to Paris and Amsterdam. It was my first time out of the country. As our anniversary approaches, I’m still so in love with the man I married. He’s someone who loves me for me – he nurtures my talent, cares for me when I’m down, and keeps it real with me when I need it.
My husband was diagnosed with cancer
The first several months of a married couple’s life is described as the honeymoon phase. In those first few months, most couples are recouping from the wedding (mentally, physically, and financially) and sending out thank you cards to their wedding guests. Our first year has been very different from other newlyweds – my husband was diagnosed with low grade Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in January, just after his 35th birthday. His Oncologist presented his case to the Emory tumor board to determine treatment. They decided based on his age, health, and type of cancer that “watchful waiting” is the best course of action for now. The news has changed us in ways we are still figuring out. Even though he’s not actively receiving chemo or radiation or immunotherapy treatment, we’ve been to Kaiser so many times it feels like we could rent our own room there. Anytime his physical state changes, the alarm bells sound off in my head. Neither of us can stand commercials or TV shows or movies about cancer. We are both in therapy, and the topic of our future is one that we speak about with both hope and fear. We’ve realized that the small things like household chores and errands don’t matter as much. We’ve also realized that we’ll be paying off my student loans and his medical bills for literal decades.
I was laid off
Being laid off is a special kind of trauma, and the second time around felt worse than the first. I had been a marketing specialist at my company for almost two years. The company itself was experiencing growing pains and after a year and a half of being the marketing strategist/digital project manager/ social media strategist/ sole copywriter, I was ready to move up or move on. I’d started talking to my manager about a promotion, and worked to demonstrate my value each and every day. I worked through lunch. I checked work emails and Slack after hours and on weekends, responding in kind. I believed that this behavior would make me an asset, but I soon learned that was not the case. I was sitting in a meeting when I got a Slack from one of the managers in the building, asking me to come to his office. It was unexpected, not just because he was not my manager – who worked out of the main office in the midwest- but because he never asked to speak to me one on one. When I walked toward his office and saw the head of HR sitting there, my heart started racing. They told me that they were reorganizing the company and my position was being eliminated, effective immediately. They said that my boss, who was on vacation at the time, knew about my impending lay off but couldn’t say anything. The head of HR told me she would accept a call from me if I wanted to chat. I never called her, and six months later I have yet to hear a thing from her. All was not lost for me, though. Two weeks later I took a job with a better commute, higher pay, and less stress.
I finished my book
The first draft of To Astera, With Love was a meandering 70,000 words about young adults living in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by vampires. There was a witch who’d perfected magical tattoos gave them out to help fight the vampire hordes that killed his family, a ghost cheerleader, and a psychopathic loner who got the girl in the end. Ultimately, it was my critique partner who sat me down and told me that the work was a mess. The plot was lacking, some of the characters weren’t fleshed out, and the world building was flimsy. I was devastated at the time at the thought of starting over, but then something wonderful happened. I spent a rainy Sunday workshopping ideas with my mother-in-law, an author and former TV writer. The final version of Astera is based on a few simple ideas – what if a vampire ran for president and won? What if this vampire was vile, not just for his insatiable bloodlust, but for his regressive views and scapegoating of another supernatural group, witches? I kept the magical tattoos and found-family elements from the first book. A vengeful witch who gave out magical tattoos became a 21-year-old college student named Mercury, who worked part time at his family’s tattoo parlor. The ghost cheerleader was cut out, and the psychopathic loner became a privileged rich kid named Ellis, who was Mercury’s oldest friend. Instead of a group of young adults barricading themselves in a home and venturing out only for supplies, Astera has them on the run from a group of vampires led by a frat boy with a triangle-shaped body who still believes in GTL. In this world, politics are the same – the president has a cabinet and can sign or veto bills into law, journalists write political articles that aren’t always true, and young people are a driving force of change. There’s also a Witches’ Council, people’s powers are dictated by one of the four elements, and violence against witches is commonplace. Writing this book was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. I’ve decided to self publish, and so the manuscript is being edited and I’m in talks with a designer about the cover. I’m overwhelmed about what lies ahead but I’ve also never been so excited for my work to be out in the world.
Now you know way too much about me. If I didn’t scare you away, come back for more next week, where I’ll be sharing more about To Astera, With Love.