Finding Balance

Or: Why It’s Taking Me So Long to Finish Book 3

I know you’ve all been waiting patiently for an update on Stuck (Stitch Trilogy, Book 3).  I was really hoping I’d have a completed manuscript (or, at least, a firm release date) to share with you this fall.  But I’m just going to come right out and say it: I’m not even close.

That’s not to say I haven’t been working diligently toward that goal whenever I can – I have – or that I’m any less dedicated to getting the final installment of this trilogy into your hands as soon as possible – believe me, I’m as excited as you are!  It’s just that, I’ve had to readjust my expectations for what “whenever I can” and “as soon as possible” means during this season of my life.  And as a result, it’s looking like it’s going to be a while yet until Stuck is ready for public consumption.

And my instinct now is for the next thing out of my mouth to be “I’m sorry.”  But I have to tell you: I’m sorry, and I’m not.  Because the reason I’ve been struggling to find time to write is that my son is at a very precious and fleeting stage in his life right now, and I just can’t bring myself to miss any of it.

As you may know, I’m the work-at-home parent in my family.  And I know lots of awesome work-at-home parents who hire a regular babysitter or utilize daycare to give themselves more time to be productive (or just recuperate), and when I see them doing this, I say, “Right on! Good for you!”  And I see how they benefit, and I see how their kids benefit, and I understand where they’re coming from when they encourage me to do the same.  But the thing is, I’m just coming from a different place.

As a mother who’s had the singular and heartwrenching experience of burying my only child, I’m coming from the same place as my friend, Kelly, whose beautiful toddler son, Kevin, was tragically taken from her too soon by Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  Kelly posted this heartfelt reminder to other parents on Facebook the other day as part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month:

“I know I only had 2 1/2 years. I know 95% was spent on a roller coaster. I know that he’s not here now. I regret every break I took, every time I picked up my phone in front of him, and it wasn’t to take his picture. I regret every time I went to the sleep room and took a nap. I regret every time I went to the bathroom, and he couldn’t come with me. Some days it eats me alive. […] Forget cellphones on Saturdays! Forget cellphones as much as you can! Set alarms if you have to. Go out! Go play! Give them your TIME. It is all they will ever need or want and it won’t last for long. […] I just urge all of you to treasure EVERY second. […] Treasure the time.”

Of course, no one would ever begrudge Kelly – or any parent, especially one dealing with something as inconceivably stressful and horrific as childhood cancer – those naps and bathroom breaks and occasional zone-outs on the phone. That’s just survival.

But I felt the same way after my daughter, Alana, was stillborn.  I regretted (regret) every moment that I spent doing anything other than soaking her in, and basking in the miracle of her pregnancy.  I thought I had the rest of her life to really pay attention to her – I never realized just how short that life would be.  And this is where my mind goes when I need to decide now where to spend my time.

Should I take a couple hours this afternoon to go upstairs and write, or should I just stay here and let him and his glorious imagination cook me yet another “gourmet meal” from his play kitchen?  Should I pull my phone out and try to sneak some work on my outline, or just marvel as he so intently and purposefully pours water back and forth between cups for the next ten minutes?  Should I get on my computer while my mom reads him his book-of-the-moment for the 8000th time today, or should I stay here and do it myself so I don’t miss it if he suddenly looks up and busts out a newly mastered word with the biggest, proudest smile on his face?  More often than not, my son wins out.

And is devoting so much of myself to my child the “right” choice, or the healthiest or most sustainable, for either me or him?  I’m the first to admit that it’s probably not.  Any of my family or friends will readily tell you that Kiran and I suffer from a (mutual) separation anxiety which is hugely inconvenient to anyone and everyone who wants to spend time with either of us.  Some days (luckily, usually only a couple days a month when my nerves are raw from hormones or lack of sleep or what have you), I am burnt out and not the mother I know I could be – and I second guess my choices then, and wish I made more time for myself, and I strongly consider hiring regular help (or depending even more heavily on my mom than I already do – thank you, Mom, I honestly don’t know what I’d do without you!) so I can finally finish this book.

But then I have weeks, like I have had most of this past month, where the days – slogging and repetitive and interminable as they may be – are somehow also just brimming with delight.  Where I watch with wonder as my toddler discovers a boundless love of merry-go-rounds and waves with pure joy at every pass around the carousel.  Where I might be overtaken at any moment by an unexpected bear hug and chubby little hands yanking me in close (by the hair!) for an open-mouthed kiss on the cheek that fills my heart to bursting.  Where I lay down each night with my son in one arm and my cat in the other (my poor husband curled up in the remaining seven inches of mattress…), exhausted to the bone, but so, so full of love.

How can I bring myself to miss any of this, when I know so viscerally that it could be over at any moment?  I just can’t.

And please, please, please, don’t mistake me – the last thing I want is to send anyone off on a guilt trip for making choices that are different than mine.  Every family and every parent is different, and this is not a critique of anyone’s choices, or the completely valid reasons and experiences behind those choices.  I’m also painfully aware of the enormous and glaring amount of privilege I’ve been blessed with to even be able to have choices in this arena.

So this is just me trying to explain where my head is at, and why I’m finding it so hard to find the time to actually write, as much as I find meaning and enjoyment for myself in doing that – and as much as I absolutely hate feeling like I’m letting anyone down or failing to accomplish something I set out to do.  It’s just that, I know I can’t get any of this time back.  And when it comes down to it, I’m just not willing to give it up.

So what that means for me – and for you, dear readers – in a real-world, practical sense, is that I pretty much only get to write when Kiran is napping.  And he’s never been a big napper.  And half the time he falls asleep while driving somewhere, and then that’s it for the day.  And I wish I could just stay up late after he goes to bed or get up early in the morning to write before he wakes, but… I am tired, people!  And just like my friend Kelly, and all parents, I need that time at the end of the day to watch some TV or zone out on my phone or just talk to my husband – regular people-stuff, you know?  So basically, that doesn’t leave me with very much time to actually write.

The good news, though – for those of you waiting for Stuck – is that I have really been putting those few hours I get each week to good use.  Truthfully, I have not made too much progress on Stuck itself just yet, but I have been working on a secret little get-myself-back-on-the-horse project, which involves a good amount of brand new content within the Stitch universe. :-D And I’m planning to release that soon (hopefully before the end of the year, though again don’t hold me to it, as you now understand that I am beholden to the fickle whims of a toddler’s erratic sleep schedule!).

So, that’s where I’m at.  Trying to find the balance, and doing my best to love my life as it is, for as long as this season may last.

Thank you, as always, for sticking with me as I work to figure it all out.  And may you also, always, treasure the time.

Quick Announcement – I’m BAACCKKK!

Hey Stitch Fans!

ImBackI am **so** excited to announce that… I am OFFICIALLY working on the series again.  !!!  :-D

No release dates or anything just yet (I’m still trying to figure out how to get back in the productivity groove now that I have a toddler running around here!!), but I just wanted you all to know that it is REALLY happening.  And it feels so good. 

Planning is underway, writing will commence shortly, and I can guarantee that there’s a conclusion to this trilogy on its way… with maybe another surprise in the works as well!  (Haha, I KNOW, I’m being very short on details here… but I just don’t want to publicly commit to any dates/projects that I’m not 100% sure I can deliver, so keeping things vague for now!)

Will post another update as soon as I’ve got some progress to report…

In the meantime, hope you’re all doing well and looking forward to getting back in touch once I can leave my writing cave!!

All the best!
Samantha

Where I’ve Been + Stuck Update!

Hi Stitch Fans!

First off, thank you for waiting SO patiently for word on Stuck (Stitch Trilogy, Book 3) – I am going to make an announcement about plans for Stuck in the next few weeks, but until then, I wanted to give you an idea of what I’ve been up to for the past year (while – sorry! – not writing…).

My son, Kiran, just turned one a few weeks ago, and I really cannot even begin to comprehend where the last year has went.  It’s such a cliche, but it feels like only yesterday that we were bringing our tiny shrimp home from the hospital… and just like that, we have a glorious, giggling, gorgeous toddler scooting his adorable little butt all over our house.  See for yourself in this “second-a-day” video that my husband and I put together to celebrate Kiran’s first birthday:

As you can imagine, this sweet boy has certainly kept me busy the last year, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t trade a second of it for anything (even a finished Book 3, sorry!!).  And that’s especially true now looking back and realizing just how fast it’s gone by (new parents: I know it can be pretty rough in those early months, but people really aren’t lying when they tell you that it flies by and before long you won’t remember anything but the good stuff!).

Given everything we’ve been through with our daughter, Alana, in the past two years, reaching Kiran’s 1st birthday is a HUGE milestone for us.  After all, when you bury your only child (despite a 99% chance of survival…), you understand in a visceral way just how fragile and fleeting life can be, and that there truly are no guarantees.  I knew damn well that it could happen to us (to anyone) again, and a large part of me really did not believe that we would ever be lucky enough to see this day.

And yet, here we are.  (Sigh of relief.)  Kiran has really lived up to his name and brought so much joy and light back to our lives – but at the same time, it’s been an incredibly bittersweet year as we come to understand just exactly how much we’ve missed out on with Alana. So even though it hasn’t been the most productive year for me writing/career-wise, I am SO incredibly grateful for every second that I’ve gotten to spend with this vibrant, beautiful little boy – and you can bet your pants that I will continue to cherish every second to come (even when he makes me want to pull my hair out!).

Thank you so much, readers, for all of your support over the past few years – it really means the world to me.  And I will be in touch *soon* with more concrete news about Stuck!  (Promise!)

PS – For those of you in the US, it would mean the world to me if you could spare a moment to sign this sign this petition at whitehouse.gov asking the federal government to acknowledge the stillbirth crisis and hopefully draw more funding towards stillbirth research and awareness to prevent future tragedies.  No spam, no money, just a minute of your time to help save potentially tens of thousands of lives.  Thank you!!  #SignForStillbirth

Announcement: Joyfully Introducing Kiran!

Hi Stitch Fans!  You may have noticed that I’ve been MIA for the past few months… I sincerely apologize for the lack of updates, but I promise I have a very good reason for my absence, as I’ve been working on something very special.  :-)

Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to my beautiful baby boy, Kiran!

Kiran Birth Announcement

Kiran (pronounced just like the more common Irish name Kieran) is a Hindi word that means “beam of sunlight” or “first rays of dawn” – a fitting description of what this child means to us and our family.

As you can imagine, after the loss of our daughter, Alana, last October, Kiran’s pregnancy was long, anxious, and a constant struggle between hope and fear.  Needless to say, I didn’t get much writing done these past nine months, so no announcements about Stuck (Stitch Trilogy, Book 3) *quite* yet (sorry!).  I’m planning to take the next few months to adjust to life with an infant, but I hope to have some Stuck updates for you in early 2015.  (I promise, as soon as I have any progress to report, you guys will be the first to know!)

Until then, I will be basking in the bliss of this tiny little person who has brought so much joy and love to my life (…and trying to catch up on some sleep!).

Readers, family, and friends – thank you again for all of your support through this incredibly difficult past year.  I feel very blessed to be surrounded by so many caring people.  Thank you for everything.

Update: Stuck (Stitch Trilogy, Book 3) Release

Dear Readers,

I know you have been patiently waiting for an announcement about the Stuck (Stitch Trilogy, Book 3) release date, and I cannot even begin to express how much it means to me that you are so invested in this series.  You guys are truly amazing, and I am incredibly lucky to have so many enthusiastic and dedicated readers.  And so, it is with a heavy heart that I’ve decided to postpone the release of the book.

As many of you may have heard, I suffered an incredibly difficult personal trauma in October, the ramifications of which are still shaping every moment of my existence.  When I announced an expected 2014 release date for Stuck last year, I never in my wildest dreams (nightmares) imagined that 2014 would be spent piecing my life back together after burying my only child.  My most fundamental beliefs – about the way the world works, about the nature of God, about what I have been put on this earth to do – have been irrevocably altered. In light of everything I am struggling to comprehend, I simply cannot fathom giving this trilogy the conclusion it deserves at this point in time.

As you know, my books are not a “light” read – they are complex, and they require deep and critical thought to construct.  I just do not have the capacity to handle it right now.  For the past several months, I kept thinking that I would wake up one day soon and that writing this book would feel like a relief, but instead, it continues to feel like an unbearable weight.  The thought of taking on a project of this magnitude at this point just makes me want to dig a hole next to my daughter’s grave, climb in, and pull the dirt back over myself.  If you have never grieved like this (as I hadn’t before now), I know it seems unthinkable, but even almost seven months out and with the best support anyone could ask for, I am still in survival mode; it’s all I can do just to make it through each day. Sure, I look like I’m functioning from the outside – I’m able to feed and dress myself, and to not pass the entire day in tears, so I guess that’s progress from where I was at a few months ago.  But I am not “better.”  I cannot just go on with my life as if nothing has happened.

I was supposed to be writing this book during the happiest time of my life, with my beautiful baby girl on my hip, at the culmination of all my most wonderful dreams.  Instead, I am living a technicolor nightmare, my days full but empty, my home peaceful but barren, my heart filled with love but shattered to pieces.  I know it seems that writing would offer me an “escape,” but the truth of the matter is that there simply is no escaping this sorrow.  Writing has always been a joy for me; right now it feels like a chore, and a betrayal.  And I really don’t want to lose my love of writing to this tragedy, too.

So, I’ve decided to officially postpone the release of the book.  I’m not going to lie – I don’t know when I’m going to finish it.  I’m still hopeful that it will be soon, perhaps next year, maybe the year after. Or who knows, maybe as soon as I hit “publish” on this post the weight of expectations will lift and I’ll feel ready to begin. Either way, I just want to be honest with you, my faithful readers: I just don’t know.  But once I have anything definitive to report, I promise you will be the first to hear.

Thank you again for all of your understanding and support.

Sincerely,
Samantha

PS – In the meantime, check out the What Tomorrow May Bring anthology which includes Stitch as one of 10 highly-rated full-length YA dystopian reads for only $2.99, releasing May 1st on Kindle.

NEW! Get Stitch from the “Netflix of Books”

Oyster BooksHi everyone!  Wanted to share with you a great new service that I learned about on one of my favorite blogs, Realms of an Open Mind (thanks for the tip, Keely!): it’s called Oyster, and it’s basically the Netflix of books!

Netflix for books?” you say.  “But what ever do you mean??

Exactly what it sounds like: for $9.95 a month, you have unlimited access to a library of 200,000 books, including tons of bestsellers and (you guessed it…) the Stitch Trilogy!  Best yet, they offer a free one-month trial which you can sign up for at www.oysterbooks.com.

Only drawback (at least if you’re an ex-Microsoftie living in a strict anti-Apple household like me – what, no takers?) is that it’s currently only available on iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, and only to users in the US.  Hopefully they’ll expand that to international readers and Windows Phone users sometime soon… (hey, a girl can dream!  My WP8 is the bomb, btw).

In other news…

Super excited about a new YA dystopian anthology that Stitch is going to be a part of!  It will include 10 highly rated YA dystopian books and be priced at only $0.99!  How can you beat that??  More details coming soon…

Also, I know you guys are all dying to know what the deal is with Stuck (Stitch Trilogy, Book 3)…  All I can tell you right now is that it’s in the works and still slated for a 2014 release.  As soon as I have more firm dates, I promise you guys will be the first to know!  Sign up to receive an email notification or follow me on Facebook or Twitter to stay up-to-the-minute on release announcements!

“If you like Delirium and syfi dystopian, you’ll love this book.” 2 Reviews & Giveaway + PS about Stuck

Tressa's Wishful EndingsBig thanks to Jessica and Tressa for hosting the Shudder Blog Tour today with two awesome stops featuring CBL Giveaway chances and reviews of Stitch/Shudder!

First, check out the 4.5-star Stitch review at Escape Into A Book.  Then swing by Tressa’s Wishful Endings to hear what Tressa had to say about both Stitch & Shudder – here’s a sneak peek:

I really liked Alessa’s character. I thought she was a great MC and I connected with her and her struggles under the circumstances she was dealing with…. The society and plot were plausible (for a scifi/paranormal) to me as well. The drugs used on the people and separation of the classes; the romance; what the “virus” had created; the struggle for survival, but also for freedom all worked for me. … I’m looking forward to finding out how this series will end. If you’re looking for an interesting dystopian I think you would enjoy picking this up! <continue reading>

Thanks again to Jessica and Tressa!  And don’t miss these stops for more chances to win the big CBL Prize Pack Giveaway!

PS – I also wanted to give a quick shout-out to Tamara and her raving fan mail where she threatened to kidnap me and force me to write Stuck so that she wouldn’t whither away to nothing but eyeballs while waiting for the 2014 release.  Totally made my day.  :-)  I PROMISE you guys I won’t make you wait forever for Book 3!  As soon as I can do it, I will!!

Shudder LAUNCH & Blog Tour Kick-Off, Woo-Hoo!!

Shudder is here!  Get your copy today!BIG day today, ladies and gents!  :-D  First off, I’m SUPER excited to announce that Shudder is FINALLY here!  <Happy Dance!>

Here’s where you can grab your copy:

  • Amazon: Kindle ($2.99) or print ($9.49) formats
  • Smashwords: all other e-book formats ($2.99)
  • Coming soon to B&N Nook, iTunes, Kobo, etc. in e-book format, expected by early July

(And for anyone you know who hasn’t read Stitch yet, it’s available in all the same places for just $0.99!)

To celebrate Shudder’s arrival, today we’re also kicking off an EPIC 12-week Blog Tour running from now until September 1st with 150+ stops at amazing blogs featuring reviews, author/character interviews, guest posts, excerpts, and lots and lots of giveaways!  Check out the full schedule here.

Shudder Blog Tour - June 15th to Sept 1st

About the Tour

To give you a quick rundown, the first two weeks are being host by my buddy Laurynne over at CBL Tours, and she’s got a blitz of blogs lined up between now and the end of the month.  All of the blogs participating through CBL will be hosting a MASSIVE giveaway for one grand prize winner of the Stitch & Shudder Prize Pack (open to US+Int’l) featuring:

  • Signed Print Copies of Stitch & Shudder
  • Ebook Copies of Stitch & Shudder for 5 of Your Friends (signed via Authorgraph!)
  • $10 Amazon Gift Card
  • Signed Stitch Litograph Poster (includes full text of the book in tiny print!)
  • Signed Shudder & Stitch Bookmarks

There’s tons of ways to enter every day and the giveaway is open through early July, so swing by any of the CBL Tour Host blogs for your chance to win!

After that, we’ll have 8 more weeks of blog tour goodness featuring many of your favorite stops from last year’s Stitch Blog Tour plus a bunch of new blogger friends that I’m excited to introduce to you!  Many of these stops will be featuring smaller giveaways of their own (which means better chances to win!), along with TONS of great extra content from guest posts and character visits to author interviews and excerpts.

And closing out the tour in late August will be a super-fun interactive two-week activity hosted by the amazing Laura of Prism Tours!  More details coming on this later in the tour.

So how do you make sure you don’t miss any of the action?  Follow along all summer long through the following links to my and/or Stitch Trilogy‘s Facebook pages (remember to select “Show in Newsfeed”), my Twitter account, or the blog RSS.  I’ll be posting near-daily to update you on all the latest happenings.  :-)

Today on the Tour

Whew, so now that we’ve got the background out of the way, let’s get this thing rolling!  To start you off today, we’ve got one great stop at Joana In The Sky With Books!  (No CBL bloggers today, so you’ll have to wait until next week to enter that big giveaway, sorry!)

Joana In The Sky With Books is featuring an excellent 4 star review and an awesome author interview!  Here’s a preview:

From the review:

“This one definitely moves at a faster pace than the last one and it’s more action packed as well. … this series is great both for lovers of dystopian fiction and for people who, like me, had never ventured into the genre.  All the other elements from other genres (paranormal, sci-fi, even a little horror) make this book absolutely unique!”

 

From the interview:

Is there any character in the trilogy based on someone you know in person?

Actually, almost EVERY character in the trilogy is based on someone I know, or more likely a combination of people I know.  Alessa is a lot like me, for better or for worse, and Janie is a combo of a bunch of my good friends (Joan’s good sense and keen observation, Vanessa’s bubbliness and charisma, Diane’s courage and undying loyalty, amongst others).  Certain aspects of Isaac were drawn from my husband (his analytical-mindedness and just overwhelming kindness and thoughtfulness), and the Engineers (the bad guys) are based on a variety of people I’ve met and disliked over the years…

Plenty more at Joana In The Sky With Books!  Thanks so much to Joana for kicking off the tour this weekend!  Check back Monday for more great stops and plenty more tour excitement.  :-)

One More Announcement…

Now that Shudder is released and includes a sneak preview chapter from the final book in the series, it looks like the cat’s out of the bag… In case you were curious, the title of the third and final installment in the Stitch Trilogy is Stuck.

But no cover yet!  If you want to check that out, you’ll have to grab a copy of Shudder and see for yourself in the back of the book.  :-)  (But DON’T peek at it until you’ve read through Shudder, otherwise you’ll spoil the ending of Book 2!  You’ve been warned!!  Seriously.  Don’t do it.  Trust me.)  Happy Reading!!!