My parents never wanted to be rich. There was no lusting after mansions or expensive cars. They just wanted to be "comfortable." My father didn't even want to take vacations, so every summer, I left school for my "staycation," as a vacation without travel is now called.
I hated spending every summer at home. I wanted to travel, to see the world. I wanted to be a writer, to be successful enough to make a living at it. And I did all of those things. I was one of the ten percent of authors who didn't need a day job. I had the large advances, the lead title status, the advertising, the promotions, the publicity. I was on top of the world.
Then I slipped and fell off.
Actually, it was more complicated than that. My dad died shortly before the publication of my fifth novel, and I suffered an emotional meltdown. Dad was proud of my success, but it also made him feel that he was no longer needed. Until I sold the first novel, he was the one who managed the household, paid the bills, and helped take care of Collin while I was working. I believed if I had not been so successful, he might still be alive. Guilt is a powerful thing. It can poison, it can cripple, it can destroy.
Looking back, I should have accepted his offer to manage my finances. I knew he was very good at it, and I knew I was not. Like my mom, I couldn't balance a checkbook to save my life. Even at the height of my earning power, I still managed to end up $29,000. overdrawn at the bank. Had Dad been alive and running the show financially, I would not have fallen for a crooked real estate deal that still haunts me to this day.
I sabotaged myself on some subconscious level. I could no longer enjoy the dream I'd realized. My success, I believed, had killed Dad. It was the beginning of a writer's block that lasted seven years and cost me everything I'd worked for. I was angry, erratic, and frustrated. I was hurting and took it out on everyone around me.
We lost our home, most of our possessions, and nearly our pets as well. We got Sam and Mom's dog Schatzi back, but my potbellied pig, Iggy, was killed (see my Sam's Story blog). We rented a small apartment from a man who turned out to be a truly remarkable human being and landlord. We might have gotten ourselves turned around then, but the damage had already been done. Mom, a diabetic, had a series of strokes. I had medical issues of my own. I was levied by the IRS. By the time Mom passed away, our landlord had sold the apartment building after having a quadrupole bypass, and we were losing another home.
We were homeless.
Oh, we never spent a night out on the streets or ended up in a shelter, but it was close a couple of times. We lived in a total of six motels in the next couple of years. Collin worked at IHOP, but didn't make enough to pay for our room and food, so I was constantly seeking out assistance just to keep a roof over our heads. I couldn't get a job. No one would hire me. Once they knew I was a published author, they'd label me a bad risk. I wouldn't stick around. Once I was published again, I'd be gone, they assumed. I couldn't focus well enough to write. I blamed myself—for Dad's death, for Mom's, and for Iggy's. I blamed myself for our circumstances, and Collin blamed me, though he never said it to my face.
For six months we lived with a woman we'd never met before the day she opened her home to us. We lived with Pastor John and Carole for three months. And then we met two incredible women who had never met each other before teaming up to help us get back on our feet. They paid the rent and all necessary deposits to move us into our current home. We've been here just over five years now. Today, we consider Carolyn and Kathie family as well as friends.
The decision to self-publish Chasing the Wind was not an easy one to make, but I knew it was the right one for a number of reasons. Poised to re-enter the world of conventional publishing, I saw all of the old negative issues resurfacing. When you're rich, you have a lot of people wanting some of it for themselves and using any means they can to get it. I didn't need—or want—that kind of crap in my life. And I saw myself reverting to the old ways. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins for a very good reason—and it's the one I've always had the most difficulty with. I knew some people would say I'd opted for self-publishing because I couldn't sell the book. (Not true, by the way, but believe whatever you wish.) But I didn't want to repeat past mistakes. I didn't want to have to be concerned with my public image. I didn't want to get phone calls reprimanding me because I'd gained a few pounds. And I didn't want someone else deciding what I could and couldn't write. I wanted creative and personal freedom, and I'd finally found it. I write and market my books online, in the privacy of my own home. I choose my titles and my covers, which Collin designs. It was a real kick when we decided to re-release my backlist with new covers and their original titles and everyone thought The Unicorn's Daughter with Collin's cover art was more interesting than A Time for Legends with the glitzy cover art.
I finally understand what my parents found so appealing about a simple life. I don't need to own things. I don't need to impress anyone. I have no more regrets. And I'm not looking back.