In my very first blog post, I talked about likening the experience of becoming a published author to wading into deep waters, knowing God would be there to keep me afloat. I expected the going to be a little rough at times, to have to swim against the current and around obstacles. But I never expected there would be times when I would feel I was drowning.
Like the times I spent hours sitting behind a table at a book fair or book signing, only to return home with boxes of books just as full as they were at the beginning of the day. Or when I’ve gone weeks or even months without a new review on Amazon. Or when I’ve found out I just missed the deadline to sign up for this or that local author event. No one told me it would be this hard! Why would I work so hard to promote my book, which kinda feels like an extension of myself, only to be ignored and rejected?
So when my former boss in Atlanta connected me with her sister, who happened to be the area manager for several Barnes & Noble bookstores in the greater Atlanta area, I felt surprising trepidation, not sure I wanted to take the time to travel all the way to Georgia for what would surely be another series of disappointing book events.
I was now in the midst of a full-blown pity party.
But I couldn’t shake my belief in The Soultrekker Chronicles, nor how well-received it had been by those who had read the first book, nor my unwavering belief that the God who had given me the story in the first place wasn’t done with it yet.
When a series of events then led me to a new and better way to publish my second book, The Secret of the Hold, my gun-shy heart resuscitated. I suddenly began to hear stories from other authors about their own struggles with book promotion and disappointment. Maybe it wasn’t just me! Maybe the universe had not aligned against my trilogy!
Right about the time when I released The Secret of the Hold, that same former boss invited me to a retirement party for a former colleague in Atlanta at the end of January. Momentum was on my side, and the party was just the incentive I needed to make that trip to Georgia for those book signings! And while I was down South, I might was well hit Alabama, too.
The middle of a frigid, snowy winter would not have been my first choice to embark on a book tour, but I was DONE making excuses! Adios, pity party! After two weeks of scrambling to line up several book-related events in the South, I left on a Tuesday morning in the midst of a Michigan snowstorm. It was in the single digits and my car had no snow tires, but I had a simple assurance that I did not go alone. Throughout that morning, I drove in and out of snow squalls and howling wind until I arrived in Cincinnati at the home of my friend, Elaine, a former neighbor who had moved to Ohio six months before.
Elaine is one of those people who, after you’ve been with her, makes you feel like you’ve just come from a tent revival. She and I used to take long walks around our neighborhood. She knew all about the unsold copies of The Healer of Guildenwood sitting in my basement. She knew all about my fears and frustration. But she also knows my God and has learned to hear His Holy Spirit, a power I too often underestimate in my own life. Elaine told me, “Mary Beth, I have a vision of you as a dove that God is releasing into the world.” Her words set the perfect tone for the remainder of my trip, a trip where I heard Him speak to me in countless ways along the journey.
I continued on the next day to Atlanta, warmed on the inside even as I watched the temperature rise throughout the day from 3 degrees Fahrenheit to a whopping 42! Yet road signs along the interstate in Tennessee warned: “Dangerous Cold Weather Conditions: Use Caution!” What? So you have to actually put on a jacket? Oh, the horror!
Even after living in Atlanta for thirteen years, I felt like an alien on another planet, what with all the shiny new space-age buildings that now embellish the skyline and the disorienting roads that are constantly being altered in that ever-growing city. And venturing to ground zero on Super Bowl weekend probably wasn’t smart, but I managed to avoid the mayhem, spending three jam-packed days visiting old friends, attending that retirement party, speaking to a group of polite, attentive middle schoolers at a local Christian school about my journey to become a published author, and FINALLY doing that book signing at Barnes & Noble. At the end of the day, the staff told me most authors only sell maybe two or three books- I sold fifteen! But by far the best part of my time in Atlanta was being with dear people from my past, most notably my friend Pam from back in my graduate school days at the University of Georgia. As wonderful as Pam was back then, Jesus has since showed up, and her life now radiates joy as she hears His voice in clear and miraculous ways. What an inspiration to me as I learn to listen and open my eyes to all the ways He speaks to me, too!
But wait, there’s more! I skipped town to beat the crowd on Super Bowl Sunday and headed west to Alabama, where I spent time with two cousins and all five of my dad’s living siblings, had lunch with one of our former pastors from our church in Colorado, Zac and his wife, Abby, and had yet another book signing at an indie bookstore in Birmingham. And thanks to my cousin, Melissa, I did have one sale that evening. But, hey, I’m learning to be grateful for the successes and to learn from the not-so-successes. What did I learn? A watched pot won’t boil. A watched bookstore door won’t open, either.
My last official book event was in Huntsville, where I spoke to a homeschooling group about my trilogy and the ups and downs of becoming a published author. There were a few aspiring authors in the audience, and I pretty much felt like a celebrity. I was even informed that pictures of the event would end up in the group’s yearbook. And all thanks to my friend and college roommate, Terra, the person who knows more than anyone but my immediate family how I don’t like incessant chatter in the mornings (but who nevertheless loved to annoy me with her cheery disposition, even at 6 a.m.), But the best part was hearing from Terra and her husband, Bill, how God has spoken to them through a series of miraculous events, healings even, in their efforts to praise and honor him no matter what, even during times when it seemed their world was coming apart. Are you seeing a pattern here?
My last stop was Dayton, Ohio, where I paid a visit to one of my favorite people ever, my friend Terri, who I knew while growing up in Virginia. We found camaraderie in both being preacher’s kids and a friend with whom we could laugh and confide unabashedly. As with everyone else along the way, I left her home feeling warmed by the memories of our time together and the ways God had shown up and spoken to me through them. But He wasn’t through yet . . .
When I was thirteen and feeling down about friendships, middle school- you know, pre-adolescent angst- I remember sitting in the back seat of my parents’ car and looking out the window to see the beautiful sight of sunbeams streaming down through the clouds. In that moment, God became real to me. I felt His love and knew there was hope for my life. The sight of golden beams breaking through the darkness of storm clouds is still a reminder that He is with me, giving me hope for all my tomorrows. And so, as I drove through Toledo, only an hour from home, I looked up at a brilliant sky to the west and saw this sight, reminding me of the extravagance of His love and faithfulness to me:
Did I sell all the books that have been sitting in my basement? No. Was my “book tour” a success? If “success” meant that I was able to look beyond the waves of my fear and self-pity to see God’s extravagant love shining all around me, then the answer is a resounding YES!