In this article series, I share excerpts and stories from my book, Heir of Blood and Secrets.Something is wrong with me.
I published my book, you know, the one I’ve been dreaming about since 2014, and it’s still not enough.
I’ve made these little promises to myself throughout this entire process —once you finish your first draft, once you wrap up your pre-sale campaign, you’ll feel like a real author. Once you finish your revisions, once you finalize your cover, once you get your first review, once you finally hold your book in your hands, you’ll feel amazing.
But I don’t.
It’s not like I didn’t feel anything throughout this journey. I just can’t help but feel that those feelings were the wrong ones. All these moments — finishing my first draft, finalizing my cover, holding my book in my hands — were full of relief.
Every time I sent out my author newsletter, updating the 152 people who believed enough in my book to help fund its publication, I felt a weight lift off my chest. Every chapter I shared with my editor, letting her know it was ready for review, reassured me that I wasn’t a failure.
And that was okay, because I could rationalize it. I was busy, wasn’t I? Of course I’d feel relieved that I was getting sh*t done. Who wouldn’t?
But it went deeper than that.
The moment I really, really thought it would all come together, was the moment I would finally hold my book in my hands. So after my books arrived, after I did my unboxing video, after I’d had a chance to process everything, I looked at my book, the one I’d sweated over and cried over, nearly ruined relationships over, and all I could think was that ISBN is really, freaking big — does it need to be that big?
And the entire time I was filming my unboxing video, I was oscillating between happiness, because omg, this is my book and being totally stressed out, which infuriated me, which only stressed me out more, because why am I not happier? Why am I not jumping up and down, screaming with joy, sending pictures to everyone I know?
I didn’t tell anyone about the fact that my books had arrived, other than my mom and sister, who’d been home when they’d come. We did the obligatory photos, like the one at the top of this article. And if you look at that photo, you’d probably see what I wanted you to see — a really happy person.
But I wasn’t happy, not completely. I was 20% happy and 80% stressed. And there were easy excuses for that. I had to sign, package, and ship over 100 books in the next few days. I had to make address labels, measure envelopes, double check every package to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes. Of course it was stressful.
Yet, if that was all it was, why do I still not feel amazing and accomplished and really, truly happy? I’ve sent out all my books. I’ve uploaded my files to Amazon and IngramSpark and Kobo. I’ve been congratulated by what has to be over a thousand people, made sales, gotten my first five star review. My ebook has a shiny orange badge next to it that say #1 New Release, not for one category, but three.
And all I can think is, why am I not happy?
I made this post on LinkedIn last week:
I published my debut novel a few days ago — since then it’s ranked on Amazon bestseller lists in four different countries, even hitting #1 in it’s category in Australia yesterday, which has been truly amazing.
On launch day, I posted a picture of myself with all my author copies in a writing Facebook group, sharing that this book had been seven years in the making, and that I was so happy to finally get to hold my book in my hands.
And admist all the congratulations and supportive comments, one lovely individual chose to post this comment: “7 years? I wrote 11 in less time. Some were 110,000 words.”
I really wanted to laugh it off — so what if they had written 11 books in 7 years? What did that have to do with me and my book?
But my first reaction was to respond defensively — “I took an almost six year hiatus,” I wanted to say, “so technically it didn’t take me 7 years and I wrote my first draft in a month. I was doing other things, graduating from high school, travelling the world, growing up.”
I wanted to point out that quantity didn’t mean quality, that anyone could generate a hundred thousand words, call it a book, and publish it. That it was hardly fair to compare his experiences as a grown man to mine as a university student with multiple jobs.
I had to force myself to stop and really think about why this random comment from someone I didn’t even know bothered me so much.
And it’s because I’m a little embarassed that it did take me 7 years to get Heir of Blood and Secrets out there.
I have this internalized definition of success that says it’s more impressive to do things when you’re younger, to do them quickly rather than slowly.
But — and stop me if you’ve heard this one before — success isn’t a straight line. Maybe it would have been more impressive had I published at 14 instead of 21.
Why should that matter?
I grew up comparing myself to others and finding myself wanting — it’s only been in recent years that I’ve been actively trying to stop. Because it doesn’t do me any good to put myself down, to shame myself for not being able to publish sooner. For not being ready.
At the end of the day, I really do think that getting to grow up, taking those 7 years, has made Heir of Blood and Secrets a much better book than it would have been otherwise.
I would never have been able to successfully run my pre-sale campaign as a shy, insecure 14 year old. I would have never had the guts to write a book with non-white characters because I hadn’t yet come to terms with my heritage.
I would never have written this post and shared it with the world.
I’ve changed so much in the past 7 years. I’ve grown to be confident in who I am, to stand by the choices I’ve made and learn from my mistakes, to be comfortable with uncertainty and to ask for help when I need it.
One random Facebook comment isn’t going to take that from me.
I meant every word in that post. And as I watched the supportive comments roll in, I thought I was having that breakthrough. I was owning my journey, being proud of what I’d accomplished. But as I sit in front of my laptop now and I look at my book, I want to cry.
I named this article series 2014 to 2021 because I wanted to own that journey, be open about how long it had taken me.
But it goes beyond embarassment. What I feel as I look back on the past seven years is far more than a little embarassment about taking so long. What I see is the many, many times I’ve moved the goalposts of success and refused to acknowledge my achievements.
Because there was always something more I needed to do. Writing a book wasn’t enough if it was riddled with plot holes. Revising a book wasn’t enough if no one was ever going to read it.
Publishing a book isn’t enough if no one knows about it.
There will always be something else I need to accomplish. I will never reach my goal if my goal is constantly changing.
So I’m taking it one step at a time now. If one person finds my book today that didn’t yesterday, I’m going to count that as a win.
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Heir of Blood and Secrets is now available on Amazon — buy it here!
In this article series, I share excerpts and stories from my book, Heir of Blood and Secrets.
If you’ve been following my writing journey, you know that Heir of Blood and Secrets started as The Rebellion’s Daughter, a NaNoWriMo project I was bound and determined to finish back in 2014. The interesting part about that is that even though I wrote 50,000 words, very few of them made it into Heir of Blood and Secrets.
The core elements stayed the same - it’s the story of a girl who chooses to be a hero - but my protagonist’s name has changed (it’s Scylla now, in case you were wondering). Characters have become far more dynamic and three-dimensional. The cringey love triangle my fourteen year old self thought was so important no longer exists. The world my characters live in - Devovea - has become far more complex and reflective of reality.
When I started (re)writing Scylla’s story, I made the difficult decision to start from scratch. I’ve changed so much from that awkward, shy fourteen year old girl that I was and I wanted this book to reflect that.
In short, as I’ve grown up, so has my novel. So today, I want to share my Author’s Note. It’s the first thing I wrote when I recommitted myself to seeing this book through, back in Fall 2020, after mostly ignoring it for almost six years.
When I was fourteen, I went to my first writer’s conference. It was this crazy foreign world, one full of authors and editors and agents and humans who were united in their love of writing. It was overwhelming and intoxicating. I filled an entire notebook with thoughts and writing prompts and publishing advice. But the thing that stuck with me for the longest time was the idea of The Hero’s Journey.
I grew up obsessed with the idea of being a hero.
I was a shy kid, one that never drew attention to herself, one that was often overlooked. I was convinced that if I somehow became a hero, I would finally be good enough. I would finally belong. I just wasn’t quite sure how to get there. So when I heard about The Hero’s Journey, I didn’t see it as just a plot structure, but rather a potential template for the rest of my life. Cheesy, I know.
The Hero’s Journey is a pretty common story structure that typically starts with a call to action, in which a hero is propelled from an ordinary world into an incredible adventure. There’s generally a refusal of the call, in which the hero isn’t quite ready to abandon the world they’ve known and several thresholds they have to cross before they emerge victorious. It’s the story structure a lot of novels are based on.
I wanted to write something different. I wanted to write a story about someone who chooses to be a hero. I was so frustrated by the idea of a Chosen One because, frankly, there aren’t a lot of ancient prophecies in real life and more than anything, I wanted to be a hero, someone who mattered.
I grew up believing that at some point in my life, my purpose would miraculously become clear. I grew up waiting for a call to action that never came, and I tried to convince myself that I ought to be happy with what I had and to stop looking for more. But I no longer believe that we have to wait for something miraculous to happen to take control of our lives and become who we want to be.
I think that anyone can be a hero. We don’t need someone else to appoint us.
We’re often told that we should live our lives the way we want to, but from the moment we wake up until we rest our heads at night, our lives are filled with unrealistic expectations, often set by people who do not know what we are capable of achieving. We lose pieces of ourselves before we ever get the chance to find out who we are. Over time, we start to conform to social norms, and we lose who we've always wanted to be. We trade dreams for tentative acceptance, and we force ourselves to be someone we're not because that is what we have been taught is right.
Growing up, I hated being a girl. I was a tomboy, one who prided myself on being different from other girls. The underlying message in so many of the books I read, and the movies I watched, was that to not be male was to be weak, so to be strong, I needed to eschew anything even remotely feminine.
That’s not an accurate message. It’s one that pushes a false narrative onto young girls, and negatively impacts how they perceive themselves. Realizing this made me want to write a book that pushed back on those assumptions, that showed girls that they can be powerful and still wear dresses. That being strong doesn’t just mean displaying physical prowess but also demonstrating intelligence, compassion, and resilience.
Living abroad has shown me that the issues I experience are not unique but rather universal. I consider myself to be Canadian, but few people I meet think so when they see me. My story is not an uncommon one. My parents were Chinese immigrants who sought to give their daughters a better life in a different country. When your parents move across the world for your future, the unspoken assumption is that you ought to do amazing things.
But doing amazing things, choosing to be a hero, is extraordinarily difficult when you never quite feel you belong, and people pass judgement before you can even begin. Those expectations are a heavy burden to bear, yet we all shoulder them. And when we let them dictate our lives, we hold ourselves back.
I believe that we are all capable of heroic things. No matter your gender, race, class, or creed, you have the power to decide what you want your life to look like. Sure, there are constraints, there are obstacles, and there are reasons why doing the right thing is difficult. There is always the possibility that something terrible could happen. I can't tell you it won't. What I can tell you is that what you do matters, sometimes in unexpected ways.
Heir of Blood and Secrets is a young adult novel for dystopian fiction readers and people who are willing to reflect on our society as it is and dream about what it could be. It’s meant to show girls that they can do cool, heroic things; that they can choose themselves. I hope it encourages readers to consider perspectives other than their own because we live in an incredibly complex world. To pretend otherwise is tragic.
If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, please subscribe to my Author Newsletter. You’ll be notified when the next article goes live. If you’d rather reach me directly, you can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or messaging me on social @lindaxia_author. Heir of Blood and Secrets is now available on Amazon - buy it here!
Over the next 10 weeks, I’ll be sharing excerpts and stories from my book, Heir of Blood and Secrets, in this article series. Heir of Blood and Secrets launches on August 23rd on Amazon.
I’d like to say I’ve been writing my entire life, but that would be a lie and a lie would be a strange way to start off this article series.
The truth is that I’ve had a love-hate relationship with writing since I was thirteen years old. Angsty poetry, written on my $300 laptop - a princely sum at the time - was an outlet for me, nothing more, at first.
I can’t recall exactly when that changed, when I started to fall in love with the act of creating worlds on paper, and characters from words. All I can tell you is that something changed and I could no more stop myself from writing than I could prevent air from entering my lungs.
Dramatic? Perhaps. It’s hard to put into words what my writing meant to me (the irony is not lost on me). It was a need, something I loved, and something I was ashamed of loving.
I was born in Canada, courtesy of parents who put the needs of their unborn children before their own. It’s a gift I did not ask for, but one that I reap the benefits of every day. It’s a debt I can never repay. So to take the opportunities that I was given, to put them aside in favor of an exhausting career as a novelist, was something I could never justify. Surely, I had to do something extraordinary, live up to my full potential, achieve society-ordained levels of success. Found a unicorn startup. Land a job at Google right after graduation.
Of course, at thirteen, my dreams were far less lofty. I wanted to go to a good university (whatever that means), win awards, prove to myself, my parents, the world, that I was good enough. Did I do that? I honestly don’t know.
Now, as I write this article, and I hold my book in my hands for the very first time, only a few days out from publication, I have the same fears. Have I let my parents down? Have I failed to reach the limits of my potential, failed to be successful?
Seven years ago, I would have said that publishing Heir of Blood and Secrets (then The Rebellion’s Daughter) would be a dream come true. If you’d asked me if that was still the case even a few months ago, I would have said yes. Of course, yes.
But I am slowly coming to realize that when it comes to my writing, and life in general, there are so many fears and negative thoughts lurking beneath the surface and they do not go away just because I’ve now seen a book through from inception to publication. There are monsters I must face, demons I must slay. Maybe there always will be.
I want you to know that, because I wish someone had told me when I was thirteen that I didn’t need to have everything figured out. That all these substantive milestones - awards, university acceptance letters, publications - weren’t the answer to the questions I was really asking. Am I good enough? Am I doing life right?
Because that’s the fascinating thing about life and this beautiful, complex world that we live in. If you choose to, you can live your life on your own terms. Define your own metrics of success. Take a step back from the gilded images you see on social media because, remember, perception isn’t reality. You get to decide what the rest of your life will look like. You get to decide if you’re good enough, if you’re going to be a better person than you were yesterday, if you’ll do the right thing even when it’s hard.
And in case you need to hear it, you are enough. Stop comparing yourself to others because this path that you’re on? It’s yours.
I am still learning to love myself, to recognize that my needs are important too. I am still learning to be a better writer, a better student, a better human. But I know I am moving in the right direction now, and that’s all that matters. Life goes on, and we move onwards.
If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, please drop your name and email in this form. You’ll be notified when the next article goes live and when Heir of Blood and Secrets officially publishes! If you want to connect, you can reach me at email@example.com or connect with me on social media @lindaxia_author.