Summits & Books: A Look Back at Year One

A year ago I sold my first book. It was an e-book, and I’m not sure who bought it, but as I watched the red line on my KDP account move from one to five to ten copies and beyond that day, I felt for the first time like a real live author.

The Soul Mender has been out for a year now, and what finally being published means has been revealed to me over those 365 days. The greatest thing I’ve learned about this journey is that it has layers, and each time in this process where I think I’ve truly made it, that I’m knocking on success’s big red door, I find out that I am simply at the edge of a new layer, slowly peeling it back to reveal what lies beyond.

I have been the worst blogger over the past few months, something I wish I could attribute solely to the fact that I’ve been busy. In truth, after days, weeks, and months of writing book three in the trilogy, I just didn’t have a whole lot of extra to give.

Put simply, the last thing this author wanted to do was to write!

This blog in my re-introduction to society, and I’ve made a commitment to my marketing team to hop back on the blog wagon, so if you don’t see something posted by the end of each week, please send me a forcibly worded reminder!

This is also the place where I should tell you that in celebration of the one year anniversary of the book launch, from now until June 5th, The Soul Mender will be FREE for everyone to download to their Kindle or Kindle App. Please tell your friends!

Now, back to my stream of consciousness. 

I like to compare my writing journey to my climb of Mount Rainer in 2011. On this expedition though, I have not yet reached my summit, at least I hope not. I’d like to think I am somewhere on the Disappointment Cleaver, stumbling forward in the dark as I wonder if in the next fifteen minutes I might die, simply run out of oxygen and strength, and keel over into the snow. I know that sounds like a morbid place to hope to be, but it’s quite the opposite. You see when I reached that point on Mount Rainier where I had nothing left to give and had nearly given up on myself ever reaching the top, where I was babbling incoherently and longing only for the comfort of my sleeping bag, I found something within that I didn’t know existed. I found strength, and courage, and drive, and the resolve to get to the top of that damn mountain because I was anything but a quitter. My cousin, Will, was at the front of our rope team, and I’m pretty sure he pulled me the last 500 feet up the mountain, but we can’t do any of these things alone. We can’t accomplish any dream without the help of others. I made it to the top that day, and immediately fell to my knees as cold tears and frozen snot poured down my face. That was what success looked like to me that day.

When I compare where I’m at with my writing to where I struggled on Mount Rainier, and how that makes me happy, it is because I know what lies in wait in that hellish spot, ready for the taking. I know the power that resides where the wind screams so loud you can’t hear your own voice, and the cold is so deep that you think your bones might rattle apart. I know that without passing through struggles—through a point where false summits seem to be the only “top”—I cannot find the strength I need to push ahead.

I am currently at a writing conference in Phoenix, AZ, and at one of yesterday’s panels an editor from a big New York publishing house dropped the bomb that worldwide, there are over 62 million books available to readers.

Wait. What?

I am competing with 62 million books for a spot on the summit of Author Success Mountain, a number that is daunting at best, and paralyzing at worst. I will receive awards and accolades only to be dragged down by a negative review, or a pass on a movie inquiry. I guess I assumed that once my book was published, success would be immediate, tangible, and that I’d be paying for my own ramen by now.

I am not yet buying my own soup.

But here’s what has happened, the things worth celebrating, because as I stumble up my mountain of publishing, I’ve learned that it is at the pinnacle of these false summits where true joy is found. Where you pause, take a breath, and turn your head in a full circle, absorbing the beauty of the experience—feeling proud that you’ve made it as far as you have.

The Soul Mender received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, and was selected as one of their Best Indie Debut Novels of 2016. It also received a five-star review from the Pacific Book Review, was positively reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly, won first place in the Los Angeles Book Festival’s “Genre Fiction” category, was a runner up in the Shelf Unbound Contest, was a quarter finalist in the Booklife Prize for Fiction, made Amazon’s Bestseller’s list, and had four inquiries from major film and television companies.

I also wrote and published the second book, The Peace Keeper, and have almost finished the third.

Wow.

In writing this blog and taking a moment to enjoy the view, I am once again reminded of the beauty of writing. I am reminded that while accolades are nice, and bumps in sales are like Christmas morning, I didn’t get into this business because I wanted to make millions (I mean, I hope for that! Dear God, please…). The truth is that I love to write and I had a story in me that I felt I needed to share with the world—maybe for them, mostly for me.

I wrote the first word of The Soul Mender because I am an author, and I wanted a job that I loved.

To those thinking of writing a book, or to those in their first, second, eighth, tenth year, I want to pass on the most important thing I have learned thus far. Without being a New York Time’s Bestselling author, or when someone gives you two stars and says you aren’t worth a damn, it can sometimes feel like you are failing, or not living up to your vision of success. That is why it is important to stop and take inventory of your accomplishments any time you begin to feel less than your expectations—to pause at the height of your false summits and say “Wow, I’ve made it this far.”

Because this far is impressive, and you should be proud.

As I said earlier, I am at a writing conference in Phoenix, and last night we had a drink with a fellow author friend who reminded me of an incredibly important part of my analogy that I’d missed—maybe the most important part:

In writing, our mountains do not have summits, or at least we hope not. Because the journey never ends, and the opportunities are infinite.

Just don’t forget to enjoy the hike.