Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hello 2013!

© 2013 Marta Stephens all rights reserved

How appropriate that my first post here on Murder By 4, in a very long time I might add, is at the beginning of a new year.  I promise that I won’t fill the page with silly resolutions. You know, those life-changing goals that sound great, but ones I will never keep (’cause it’s not in my nature). Rather I want to reflect upon and share with you what I’ve walked away with from 2012 and how those experiences promise to shape the coming year.

I have to say that I’ve always believed all things happen for a reason and undoubtedly, faith has played a significant role in my life. It’s helped me deal with a number of ups and downs and eventually it’s helped me recognize the lessons embedded in the obstacles that at time seemed so hopeless.  

Let’s face it, change is inevitable.  After all, wouldn’t it be boring if life were stagnant and so I’ve always tried to embrace it (change)—some days with more grace and success than other days.  Admittedly, just as I thought I had a handle on things, something else crept into the picture to complicate matters...again and again, and again which leads me to the five bumps I found on the road. 

The first “bump” in the road came in the summer of 2011 when my husband suffered a debilitating stroke. Our lives changed that day at nine in the morning. After nearly a month in the hospital, a year in physical, speech, and occupational therapy, and countless procedures, he is thankfully doing well now. He may never walk again without the use of a walker, but life is what we now call, “Our new normal.”  

The second “bump” came five months after his stroke when I was diagnosed with second stage breast cancer.  I was looking forward to 2012 and to help him get back on his feet so I decided to get my physical and mammogram early—five to six months early. That turned out to be a huge decision. Had I waited, I would be signing a different tune or quite possibly, no tune at all. The news, of course, was a devastating blow, but with the support of my family and friends, I managed to get through two operations, four chemo treatments, the hair loss, 33 radiation treatments, and several weeks of physical therapy. If you’re interested, read more about that here. Thankfully the affects of the chemo are nearly gone, my hair came back, and I’m happy to say that as of this moment, I’m cancer free.

So where’s the lesson you ask?  
1)      Never say, “can’t.” It’s amazing what we are capable of doing when life shoves us against a brick wall.
2)      Focus on what’s truly important. Family, health, and peace of mind. Everything else will fall into place.
3)      Never give in to pettiness. Life is too short, so let’s not even go down that road!

With respect to my writing, throughout 2011, I’d been working on re-writes of the next two books in my Harper series. I had also finished a third book that introduces a PI, Rhonie Lude, and was lucky to find an interested agent. For a while, things seemed to be looking up for me, but as you might imagine, the writing and blogging came to a screeching halt in June after my husband’s stroke. 

Fast forward fifteen month to September of this year. Life had begun to really settle down. We’d worked hard throughout the summer to landscape the yard and had numerous much needed repairs done to our home. I ripped out carpeting and wallpaper, painted several rooms, replaced old fixtures and other electrical work, and fenced in the yard for our hairy kids, Izzy, our English Bull dog, and Moo our Doxie.  Now our 100-year home looks nearly new.  

Work was going well too and with all the health issues behind me, I knew it was time to get back to my writing. I was happily working away at the third book when…

The third “bump” in the road came along. In October my publisher with whom I’d been associated with since 2004 announce they were closing down and returned all the rights to our books. EEK!

The fourth “bump” arrived about a week after my publisher’s announcement. My agent wrote to say she was no longer going to represent mysteries and cancelled my contract. Oh, double EEK!

I’m pretty sure that had these events happened earlier in my writing career, they would have been devastating and no doubt would have stopped me from perusing my writing all together.  Ironically, and I don’t know whether to blame the wisdom of age, the three lessons I’ve listed above, or a combination of these things, but instead of feeling  distraught, I feel quite liberated. Yes, liberated! Now I can do with my novels what I want. So much so, that in spite of getting an offer from another publisher to represent my series, I decided to give self-publishing a try.

Last week, the “fifth “bump” nudge me aside after I updated my website. I developed it in 2007 just before the release of my first book with an old version of FrontPage. When I went to GoDaddy to publish the revisions, I was told they weren’t going to support FrontPage after this year and the rep encouraged me to download WordPress. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised. I totally dislike that software, knew no one used it anymore, and for some time had wanted to find another way of publishing my web. But oh! I just didn’t want tackle that headache right now, ha! Obviously fate had other plans up her sleeve.

So you see, my  2013 is already taking shape:  
1)      I’m editing my two existing novels, “Silenced Cry” and “The Devil Can Wait” so I can publish them on Kindle and other e-book sites. Ironically, the one thing that really encouraged me to get back to my writing was to find out that my books published in 2007 and 2008 continued to sell this past year without me promoting them.

2)      I’m now in a learning mode with respect to working with the various sites on which I plan to post/sell my books.

3)      Reading/editing “Silenced Cry” and “The Devil Can Wait” has brought me back into my writing voice. I was so afraid I’d lost it. Now that it’s back (or on its way), I’m super excited to finish the edits and move on with the next two books in the series.

4)      Finally, I’m finding my way around WordPress. I considered using it several times before, but never understood the process and didn’t want to take the time to learn. It’s definitely different than other blogs/sites I’ve developed, but it’s coming along nicely. I still have quite a bit of information to transfer from my old site, but hope to announce the new link soon.

In the end, it has been an extremely challenging year. However, I’ve walked away from it with a sense that I am as strong and capable as I allow myself to be, and that I alone am responsible for the direction my life and writing takes. The third and most important lesson is that it’s better to accept those sharp turns as gifts of new opportunities rather than obstacles that keep us from achieving our goals. After all, you never know where the next turn will lead.

A heartfelt thanks to Aaron, Kim, Ron and all our guest here on Murder By 4 for keeping this wonderful blog alive in my absence! My deep appreciation for all your prayers and unconditional support during this very trying time.

Happy New Year!
God bless and keep you safe and may you have every joy imaginable in 2013.

PS:  Note to self: Drink more water. Lose 30 pounds.

About the author:
Marta Stephens writes mystery/suspense.

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT (2008), Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY Awards, Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).

SILENCED CRY (2007) Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).

Her books are temporarily unavailable. 


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Marta, it is wonderful to hear from you, we all missed your insightful posts and welcome you back with open arms! Yay for beating the odds and for valiantly making through that mire of "bumps!" We luv you!

Marta Stephens said...

Thanks so much, Aaron. Couldn't have gotten through it all on my own!!

Kim Smith said...

So glad to see your post in here!! Happy new year!!