An open – and honest – letter to my readers
I am one of those people who overthinks everything. And I do mean everything. I mean…is it overthinks or overthink (does it agree with the one or the people…I’m a writer, I should know this shit, right?) In fact I will take this one step further: this is the fourth or fifth time I’ve started this post because the annoying little hamster that runs the wheel in my brain keeps freaking out, squeaking, and falling out of the wheel. So please… bear with us (me and my hamster) while we try to explain.
“Explain?” I hear you say. “Explain what?”
Oh … everything.
Okay, maybe not everything. But some things. Grab your favorite beverage – water, tea, coffee, margarita, double shot of bourbon – get comfy, and let’s do this thing.
If you’re a regular reader of mine – and I’m going to assume that at least some of you are since you’re here – you may know (or not) it’s been over a year since my last release. Hell, if you’re a regular reader of mine you may know (or not) that it’s been nearly 18 months since my last blog post. You may know (or not) that during that time there have been preorders and that they have been cancelled. You may know (or not) that I went to Author/Reader events in Australia in April and that thanks to a myriad of things going wrong, it was a financial disaster. You may know (or not) that there have been some things happen in my family that have been heartbreaking and some that have been challenging and that some of these have not yet been resolved.
This post isn’t intended to garner pity or pats on the head or reassurances of “but Angelique we love you”. Not that reassurances aren’t welcome, because hey I’m human and they are. They’re just not my goal. My goal is to be transparent with you about what has been happening, give you some idea of what I have planned, and to hold myself a little (okay a lot) accountable.
Over the past few years I’ve been in and out of doctors’ offices, in and out of hospitals, been on meds, been off meds, had tests, x-rays, been poked and prodded, been to therapy, and been to what feels like hell and back some days (melodramatic writer is melodramatic). My back and pelvic pain have been officially diagnosed as Central Sensitization – and yes nobody knows better than me that it could have been a far, far worse diasgnosis and yes, thanks, I have tried the thing that helped your great Aunt Gertrude. Glad it helped her. Personally, I use a combination of pain therapy and mental therapy to keep it under control – some days I do this better than others. And yes, while the physical pain does have an impact on my mental health, the reverse is also true. If I’m down, then I notice the pain a lot more. It’s hard to work when you’re in pain even if that pain isn’t being caused by anything – my body just thinks it is. See? There’s that fucking overthinking thing again – my body even overthinks pain. Which is nothing compared to what my brain can overthink.
My social anxiety got out of hand. For a while I tried antidepressants and I’m not going to lie – they helped a lot. Unfortunately the side effects were equally as problematic and we haven’t yet found one that doesn’t have the ick – but we’re still looking. I tried Ayurveda and that was fantastic until I got some kind of stomach virus that was so very unpleasant that I just have to smell CCF tea now and my stomach heaves. I have, however, kept a few of the other Ayurvedic rituals and treatments. I received a diagnosis for ADHD surprising absolutely nobody and thanks to a really supportive writers group (and I mean that sincerely -it’s a great group) I’m in on Facebook, discovered that Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria is a real thing and that I’m not actually insane (okay that last bit might still be up for debate).
Something that has helped however is discovering my rainbow kitten persona. Yes, you read that correctly. My hair has been dyed a vivid rainbow and I wear cat ears (and a collar) most days. I have an oversized beanbag – as in 2000 litres of beans in it – that I often curl up on with my cats. There are a few other components but this isn’t really the post for them (settle down, they’re just personal okay?) Is it weird? Not gonna lie – yeah probably. But do you know what? I don’t really care. Hey, wouldn’t Rainbow Hair & Cat Ears make for a great blog name? Sorry… back on track. For some reason, it doesn’t bother me when people look at, or comment on, my cat ears, my collars, or my hair. Most of the time, people are really positive about them. Most of the time I get lots of smiles and happy comments, especially from little girls. Every now and then I get some push back but it (mostly) doesn’t bother me anymore. My rainbow kitten persona lets me leave the house, lets me interact without too many anxiety attacks, and lets me feel a little more confident, so I can live with the odd negative comment here and there. Just consider me the pansexual, tattooed, pierced, rainbow haird, kitten-kink, queer fic writer your mother warned you about. Or should have warned you about.
My rainbow kitten persona has achieved another thing too…I’m writing again. More or less. As I started to find my footing again though, several things happened, in a very short space of time and they have all had an impact. My mum moved in with us – and that hasn’t gone as smoothly as we’d all hoped so has been, and continues to be, challenging. My eldest son and his wife suffered a miscarriage of their first baby (my first grandchild) at 13 weeks and that as you can imagine has been devastating. Not being able to take away their pain has been heartbreaking. My thesis has stalled and while I have the best supervisor in the world, I have to now get it finished before both he and I lose our freaking minds. Dean Winchester, I love you but dude, I need a break from studying you. My trip to Australia was amazing but it was financially a disaster – and attending RARE with no books to sell was as awful as it sounds.
Let’s see…Amazon changes. Social media changes. AI. A whole bunch of stuff that has an impact on writers – and that I will dedicate other blog posts to.
My confidence is shot to hell. I’m not even going to try to hide that. When I wrote my first book I didn’t expect it to sell. I thought it might. I hoped it might. I even prayed that it might. But did I expect it to? No. So when so many people liked Jesse’s Smile, I was caught off guard. Yes, I found my footing – sort of – and with it my happy place. But I had no plan – I winged it for the first three years. So, over the past two to three years as that footing has eroded and my happy place has become shrouded in darkness, it has not been pleasant. The hamster in my brain keeps squeaking about failure. About lack of talent. About readers moving on and rightfully so. About being unreliable and who did I think I was anyway, wanting to play in this particular sand box? I’m really starting to dislike that hamster and frankly my kitten would like to eat the little bastard.
Which brings me to today. My sales – like most indie sales – are down, even with moving my stand alone titles out of Kindle Unlimited (yes another post in the making). I’m half way through San Cap 9 and keep backspacing to ‘fix it’ (every writer out there just groaned and is muttering about the sin of editing while writing). Tennessee Whiskey is well underway but every time I open it I freeze out of fear that ‘readers will hate it’. My thesis is in DANGER WILL ROBINSON space. I’m supposed to be starting a book for a group project and most of the day I’m on alert for the group to toss me out because why wouldn’t they? Yeah, my kitten really wants to eat that hamster. He’s a pain in the ass.
What to do about it all?
Well, I’m going to be honest with you – for much of the past week I’ve been seriously considering throwing in the towel. At least it would, I have been telling myself, shut the hamster up. Except, I don’t think it would. And I would be even more miserable than I am now. So I’m going to try to fix this. Okay fix might not be the right word. Give it one more try. This time thought it’s got to be a REAL try. Not a no plan, toss it out, pray for the best try. I want to get San Cap 9 and my thesis finished over the next two weeks. Published. Tenessee Whiskey will then be up, along with Hidden Storm – and I’m determined to get them both finished on time. It’s literally put up or shut the fuck up time. That is if you’ll all give me another chance. Hand on heart though – even if you say “nope – you’re all out of chances” I’m probably going to do it anyway.
I’m a writer and that’s what we do. We write – even if nobody is reading.
But I really hope that you – some of you at least – will come along with me while I get back on track. Not to pat me on the head and tell me you love me (though…you can do that too – my kitten side will love it) but to regularly kick my ass and demand “where’s my book? Get the hell off social media and write my damned book.”
I’m only going to make you one promise if you do decide to come along with me – and that’s to try my absolute best. I think we can make it work.
Might even be fun …