It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m writing Mason’s story.

That statement alone should do nothing to inspire fear or joy, because there are no threatening words in those few characters, and there are no overt tones of pleasure. But, when you consider the journey of the past year, the paths taken to get to this place in time, to me that statement is both overwhelmingly terrifying and intensely thrilling.

One year ago, I had a story in my head. I’d dreamed about this ballsy chick who used to rodeo, she rode barrel horses. In her life, she’d had some bad experiences, but that was all behind her now and she’d moved in next to the most amazing man. That man only wanted good things for her, and saw her in a way that few others had. He saw past the walls she’d erected to keep herself safe, and recognized that they were only hindering her…stifling the love she had inside her, just waiting for the right person to come along. For a time, in my head, he was the right person. I constructed a future for the two of them that was daffodils and ducklings, daisies and dumplings. But, in my dreams, which is where these two people lived at the time, he recognized she needed more than he could provide. And, again, in my dreams, he selflessly pushed her towards a man he felt would be…could be right for her.

These dreams wouldn’t go away, so in an effort to purge them, I drafted an outline of their story. That still didn’t pull them out of my head, so I sat down and created a mind map of the characters as I would a programming project. Drawing their interactions and intersections out visually, thinking that once I was done they’d move on, and I could have my dream space back to myself. No joy.

So, the Saturday between Christmas 2013 and New Year’s 2014, I sat down with my laptop and began to write. You have to understand that this was unusual for me, I’ve read for pleasure all my life, but I’d never written creatively. I wrote business reports and board reports; I write technical documentation and instructional documents…the closest I’d ever gotten to creative was when I drew pictures and then cross-stitched them, but that’s not pulling together the needed elements for a story. Imagine my surprise when the words flowed out of me so fast my fingers couldn’t keep up, there were whole sections of sentences missing because my thoughts were in such a rush…moving so quickly that dialog flew between characters, and events transpired that left me breathless and trying desperately to capture them before they were gone.

Now, here we are one year later, “It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m writing Mason’s story.” In this time, I’ve self-published three titles, have a fourth out to alpha readers, have a surprise story half-finished, pushed out a free short story…and I’m writing Mason’s story, fifth in the series. In twelve short months, that seems an immense amount of productivity for someone who, before Christmas last year, had not ever written creatively.

From the communication I’ve had with readers, you all seem to like the stories I’ve pulled out of my head. When first Mica, then Slate hit multiple top 100 lists on Amazon, I was so in shock that I approached strangers to show them the listings, and took innumerable screenshots on my phone of their placement on the lists. “Unreal” was the word that came most often to my lips, because how…why would people want to read these stories. Didn’t they know, couldn’t they tell I wasn’t a writer? But, I love these characters so much – Mason, Slate, Tugboat, Jase…Mica, Willa, Jess – I love every one of them. Even the ones I don’t understand (yet), I love. When I hit publish on a book, I’m counting on y’all to love them, too, which is terrifying in and of itself.

So, I want to say thank you to everyone who has read these stories–my stories. When I receive an email from a reader, likes or comments on a Facebook post, questions or support via messages–it matters to me, because it tells me that I’m not alone in feeling this way about these characters, the things I’ve written. These things also matter to my readers, if your exchanges with me are any indication.

I’ve written about things that matter to me: devastation that rape leaves behind; sadness of losing a beloved parent; terror of being the reason others are hurt; loss of an entire family; difficulty for separated military personnel to integrate back into society; challenges that autism brings to both family and classroom; changing careers mid-life; struggles that brand traumatic brain injury survivors.

I’ve also written about the joys we experience: birth of a first child; pleasures of athletic competitions; satisfaction of a job well done; thrill of a first vehicle; the sense of community that music can provide; comfort provided by trusted friends; often-discounted good Samaritan factors in life. These things are pivotal in the stories and a recurring theme because they matter.

Again, thank you for taking this yearlong journey with me. Onward and upward we go, because we’ve Jase, Gunny, and Mason to learn about in 2015, and an entire series beyond this one where we’ll continue to learn about some of the characters we’ve come to love.

Every fucking day you make my life better. Muuuwah!
~ML <3