For those who don’t know, The Stroke of Midnight anthology is now available on Smashwords for free in all formats (here’s the link). Hope you all enjoy the story I included in it, Tempting The Moon.
I would also like to thank all the fans who have been so enthusiastic and supportive. My first year in publishing has been amazing. I released Darkness Haunts in January not knowing how things would go, but believing in myself and my novel enough to give it a chance. Those early months were not easy. I promoted it in every way I could think of, but after less than three months my husband was looking at me like maybe I should give up. At the end of March, it had only sold 219 copies total. He was trying to be supportive, do not get me wrong, but he felt maybe I needed to concentrate my efforts doing something more reliable.
The thing is, I’m stubborn and I don’t give up easily. I also knew that a very tiny fraction of authors succeed with their first book soon after it publishes. There are millions of books out there and it takes time to get discovered by readers. So I buckled down on the next book, Darkness Taunts, and gave up promoting the first novel. Now that’s where things got weird.
I was doing absolutely no promoting whatsoever and had not for over a month when I noticed sales were starting to climb. Little by little, but a small spark of hope began to light inside me. Darkness Haunts had 348 sales in April–more than I’d had in the previous three months combined. In May, they were more than double that. You couldn’t call it a bestseller, but I was finally reaching readers even if I had no clue how I’d done it. People would ask and I couldn’t tell them. My only guess is that those early readers had started to pass the word around and it had begun to spread.
By the time Darkness Taunts released in July, I had sold 2,000 copies of the first book. I hit number 1 in dark fantasy with the new one and its daily sales were far more than I’d ever seen before. It was crazy. People were emailing me and telling me how much they enjoyed the series. I had no idea until then. Honestly, just about no one wrote until I was close to releasing the second book (and had to delay it for a week due to some personal setbacks). Finally, my husband stopped nagging me and stopped questioning my writing goals. In fact, now he tells me I need to write faster, lol.
It’s almost the end of the year and only a couple of weeks away until the anniversary of the Darkness Haunts release. It’s now sold over nine-thousand copies. If the sales trend doesn’t take a huge plunge it should hit 10k by the end of January. I would have never believed it when starting out, but I have all my readers to thank for helping spread the word.
I also have one other person to thank who has never been included in my acknowledgments. My mother. Okay, I’m going to get teary-eyed while trying to write this, but stick with me.
When I was very young, she read to me a lot. Later, when I started learning to read she would sit on my bed and help me read books every night. We had a contest in my first grade class for who could read the most books that year. At least one parent had to sign off, verifying that we had actually read all the books we listed. My mother stayed by my side as I read 271 books that year. She always encouraged me and never made me feel like I was an inconvenience. In fact, she didn’t even shoo me away when I’d try to read along with her romance novels (that were clearly above my reading level).
In January of 1989 when I was eight years old she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The tumor in her head was growing and it was inoperable. All they could do was treat her with chemotherapy to slow it down. I watched my strong, beautiful mother slowly weaken before my eyes. She lost her hair and eventually had to use a walker just to get around. Her skin became sallow and she spent a lot of time in the bathroom hugging the toilet thanks to all the medical treatments.
It didn’t stop her from being a mom, though. She checked my homework regularly and quizzed me every Thursday night before my weekly spelling tests. Every day she put a personalized note in my lunch bag and ordered me not to read it until lunch break. Some days, I admit I didn’t wait that long and snuck a peek early. As she got worse, we had other relatives come stay with us, such as my granma who I lost earlier this year.
Did a debilitating illness stop my mom from checking my school work or making special breakfasts in the morning? No, it didn’t. She made every moment count. It’s not to say she didn’t have bad days where the chemotherapy wore her down too much to do more than rest in bed, but she honestly tried to be there for her children.
Then one Friday I came home from school and my brother and I were told that we were going on a trip to see my father’s parents who lived two hours away. We didn’t question it. I gave my mother a hug and kiss goodbye. I told her I loved her and would see her Sunday. She was in a wheel chair by this time and wearing a scarf to cover her mostly bald head, but even now I can still remember that moment. She smiled and waved goodbye as we left.
Sunday morning I woke up to discover my father sleeping on my grandparents’ couch. They wouldn’t explain why, but told us to wait for my dad in the bedroom. I still remember seeing his face when he walked in. There is a look in a man’s eyes when he has lost the love of his life and it’s not one that can be mistaken for anything else. I began crying as soon as I saw it. He took my brother and I in his arms and we mourned together, huddling close and crying.
She’d died during the night and he’d come straight to us, needing to be near his children. I was told later that she’d fallen into a coma shortly after we left on Friday. Despite that, she’d been calling my name and my brother’s. The hospice nurses said they’d never seen someone fight so much to live. She’d tried so hard not to leave us. My other relatives had thought it best to spare my brother and I the grief of watching her last hours. To this day, I disagree, but there’s nothing I can do to change that now. At least I did get my goodbye, even if I hadn’t realized it was my last one.
At her funeral, I insisted they let me see her body. I think part of me never would have accepted her death without seeing it for myself. She was so still in her coffin, but she was peaceful. The pain she had endured for most of that year was gone.
I honestly believe she is with the angels now and has probably taught them a thing or two. Over the years, I’ve done some crazy things in my life. She had to have been watching over me because I’ve survived some things I probably shouldn’t have. But the point I want to make after telling my story is that she gave me my foundation for reading. She encouraged me and she inspired me.
Maybe her time in my life was short, but it had a huge impact. I can never thank my mother enough for all the things she did for me. For any success I’ve had as a writer, it’s because she planted those early seeds. For those of you with children, read to them. Don’t miss your chance to give them that same encouragement my mother gave me. It’s worth every minute and will give them memories to last a lifetime.
December 10th was the anniversary of her death. It’s been twenty-four years now since I lost her, but I want this to be the time where I thank her. She deserves my gratitude more than I can possibly put into words. Thanks mom. You will never be forgotten.
Ow. Yes, your mom’s story was probably difficult to write and was certainly difficult to read.
The Sensor series will get the extra boost you’re looking for (and more) this January – just watch.
Thanks, Mark. I’m surprised it didn’t come out in complete gibberish because I was definitely crying hard as I wrote it. I can talk about my mom just fine, but telling the story of her death gets to me.
Thank you for sharing such a beautiful, though painful, story, Susan. And congratulations on all you accomplished this past year. May 2014 be filled with even more wonderful surprises! 🙂
Thanks, Angela. I wish the same for you too!
I cried just reading your story. I hope I’m doing the same for my 3 boys – the eldest has lost his love of reading (temporarily, I hope), but the younger two love books just as much as their Legos and Transformers.
Here’s to a great new year for your series – blast past that 10k mark and onward!
That’s great that two of your boys love books, and hopefully the other one is just going through a phase right now. With all the other readers in the house, he’s got to eventually remember what he’s missing.
Wishing you continued success with your books as well, Debra!
The first book in your series was recommended to me by amazon. You weren’t that far behind some my favorite authors such as Ilona Andrews. I’ve now stayed up till 2 am my time to finish the 2nd book. The writing and story line are absolutely fantastic. You are definitely going on my list for notifications of your new releases! I am going to finish up book 2.5 tomorrow and anxiously await book 3. I’m glad you didn’t give up on writing after that first book. I think your sales will pick up even more this year! Happy New Year!
Glad you have enjoyed the series, Sarah. I’m definitely working hard to get that next book out. Hope you have a wonderful New Year as well!