2020: Almost gone

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

BestSelling Reads authors continue their look back at a year so singular, it seemed surreal.

J.L. Oakley

I don’t think a novelist could come up with the crazy scenario we have been living in the past 11 months since COVID-19 hit. 2020 started with a promise as I traveled to Jefferson, Texas gathering of the Pulpwood Queens, where book clubs meet authors and hang out to crazy themes. The final edits to my latest historical fiction were on fire and I was to be on a panel of NW writers for the Orcas Island Lit Fest.

Then the first reports of the virus in my state of WA. My state closed down, my chorale concert postponed, then the whole season canceled, all writing conferences canceled.  

How have I managed? I think the word for 2020 is pivot. Thanks to my wonderful indie bookstore, I successfully launched my new novel virtually with over 150 attending on Facebook and their Crowdcast program. Live. All my in person groups went on Zoom. I gave talks on Zoom to the Sons of Norway Lodge in DC with international reach. Ran a successful Kickstarter for an audiobook.

On the downside, however, it has been hard to write long works. I got two short pieces accepted for publication, but the new novel is sputtering. It’s hard to focus. Only my new garden and the trails around my city keep me sane.

A.J. Llewellyn

2020 and COVID were an incredible gift to me. Sounds crazy, I know. But I had a tumor removed from my parathyroid on January 31. The surgeon assured me I would not lose my voice. But I did. For three months. Since I live alone and rely on my voice for a living, these were difficult months for me. On March 12th I was involved with the Left Coast Crime conference in San Diego. It was a grueling morning because after a panel and Author Speed Dating events, I couldn’t even whisper anymore.

Then as I prepared to go on to the next event, the hotel staff informed us that the conference had just been canceled.

I wish the organizers had canceled us before the event started but anyway… I went home and prepared for lockdown, which began on March 17.

The lockdown actually gave me the respite I needed to heal and not have to constantly explain to people why I couldn’t speak. I truly got tired of showing people my scar and assuring them I didn’t have COVID, but had just had surgery.

At first, writing was hard until a friend pointed out that since I couldn’t speak, writing was an extension of my voice so of course I couldn’t write.

I met a nurse in San Diego at the conference who had worked with patients like me and she said it would take three months for my voice to return. At that point, I was grateful that somebody knew what was going on with my body and I gave myself permission to walk my dog as long as I wanted, catch all those Netflix shows my extensive writing schedule didn’t allow.

And I made a huge dent in my To-be-Read pile of books.

The lockdown gave me ample time to examine my life and choices I’ve made. I realized I’ve been a workaholic since I was a kid. I gave myself permission to slow down and take my time writing the books I want to write. To take naps. To enjoy nature.

Had I not been forced to take the time to enjoy every moment, I would still be working 12-16 hour days.

I am grateful I have food in the fridge. That my animals are healthy and that I can pay my bills. I know a lot of people can’t do that so I help where and when I can.

Raine Thomas

As for most people, 2020 has been a year of struggle, change, and adaptability for me. From shifting to the entire family working and schooling from home to handling unpredictability in my full-time job, every day is a new challenge. In the midst of 2020’s chaos, I published a new baseball romance, For the Win, and started working on a new hockey romance series. I’m using the time I have as productively as I can to shape the future of my writing career.

Hopefully the steps I’ve taken in recent months will lead to better things soon!

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