One of the book couples I get asked about the most is Declan and Teagan from the Ex Ops Series.
“When will their book come out Jessie?”
“They are getting a book, right?”
“I need Teagan and Declan ASAP please!”
Those who know me extremely well know what I am about to say next.
See… what had happened was…
I kinda, sort of, started writing their book a while back. Well before COVID-19 even.
I even got halfway through their story.
Then I deleted it all.
Yup, you read that right: I deleted it all.
To make a very long story short, mentally, a couple of things happened to create the perfect self-hatred storm inside my head:
- A few of my well-meaning author friends gave me the advice, “Write shorter. Your stories are so long. If you wrote shorter stories you could produce faster.
At that time, I was receiving messages from readers every day asking for certain books and characters, and could I write those super fast pretty please?
So, I tried the “shorter story” method. It was a love/hate thing for me. While I did sort of teach myself to write shorter stories, I found that I lost a lot of what was “me” as a writer doing that. The stories didn’t have the depth I normally liked and felt too rushed. Unfortunately, a lot of my readers also felt this way about my new shorter stories. I received many reviews and messages where they let me know how disappointed they were that I had cut-short my character’s stories. It hurt my heart because I felt as if I had done a disservice to my readers, my characters and stories, and ultimately myself. It started a brutal black hole that sucked my creativity right out of my body. Then problem #2 kicked in…
2. I have Bi-Polar II Disorder. It’s something I’ve had since I was a teenager, but I was not properly diagnosed until around five or six years or so ago. For me, personally, it means my body is hard-wired to go through random, unpredictable cycles of hypomania and depression. While I am super grateful that I am on “hypomanic” and not “full blown manic”, the downside is that I have, at times, debilitating rounds of major depression. Well, about the time that black hole sucked out my creativity is also about the time the worst ever depression cycle I have ever suffered kicked in. It also didn’t help that my doctor at the time was putting me through a merry-go-round of different medications, trying to figure out what was the best medication for my BiPolar II. The problem is, my body is super sensitive to a variety of different medications, and I had bad reactions to many of the medications that were on the market. One medication even sent me into what my doctor said was “The worst episode of Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) that he had seen in his 20+ years of practice.” It literally took me a couple of years to find the combination of medications that would help me. That was years of depression, allergic reactions and basically hell.
There were a couple of things that kept me going from day to day: my kids, my husband, my parents, family, friends, celebrities such as Halsey and Demi Lovato that had become open and candid about their struggles with BiPolar Disorder, and my readers. That’s right: you guys really helped me get from day to day! Notes and messages from readers perked me up on days that I couldn’t get out of the bed. But between #’s 1 & 2, I fell into this pit of self-loathing when it came to my writing. I was a one hit wonder, I told myself. I really wasn’t all that talented, and I should just disappear from the book world. I would never be able to compete with the likes of some of my author friends such as Chelsea Camaron, Amelia Hutchins, Jamie Begley, Lani Lynn Vale, and Milly Taiden. Why did I even try?
I was supposed to make this a somewhat short post and look what it’s turned in to! LOL. See? I’m really not hard-wired to write all that short.
To finish this story, and to sum it all up, it’s taken me almost two years to get back to some sort of “normalcy” when it comes to my mental health. In the past few years, I have proudly taken steps to understand my BiPolar II and what is necessary, whether it be medication or meditation, to keep me healthy. It’s taken me that long to find some of my self-worth again. Will I ever be Nora Roberts? Hell no. I might never reach the sort of success some of my friends have accomplished either. But the beautiful thing is… I finally realized I didn’t need to be anyone else.
I just needed to be myself.
So, the moral to this very intimate look into the last few years of my life is this: Take care of yourself and be true to yourself.
In doing that, I erased what I had written on Declan and Teagan’s book, Engaging Her Heart.
I also deleted several other works I had been trying to do.
I trashed a lot of work because it was all stuff I had tried to force myself to write to appease someone else’s thoughts on the “how, when and why” I write, what I write, and when I write it. I have gone back to the bare bones of my guys. It’s beautiful and scary and… well, I hope you enjoy what I’m working on now.
I have multiple projects going. Some Ex Ops Series, some Big Bad Bite Series, some Hot Fur stories and also some new content. Hopefully, you all see it before Armageddon or the next Ice Age, but I promise I’m trying.
Until then, I hope you can understand why there has been such an incredibly long wait in between books. I hope you can forgive me for some of the stories I have published where I feel I shortchanged the characters in what they should have had, versus what I gave them, and you, the readers.
Is Declan and Teagan coming? Yes. One day you will have Engaging Her Heart in your hands. Hell, I’ve had the cover for it for FOREVER. It’s beautiful. You know what, I’ll just show you. I’ve had it for a couple of years now anyways. Tada: I give you Engaging Her Heart’s cover:
That’s a Golden Czermak / FuriousFotog™ photo of divine beauty that just absolutely embodies my Declan Sullivan!
*leans in to whisper* I also have a Golden photo for a new Adam / Big Bad Bite cover, a Christopher John picture of Assad for another Big Bad Bite book involving a certain vampire, a RLS Images / Randy Sewell photo of Jason “Hammer” Estes for a Big Bad Bite Series / Alec book… and more! See, I really have wanted to continue all along, I just wasn’t in a good headspace to do it. Plus, when I was having good moments, I was trying to be the best mom to my two teenage daughters that I could be.
You see, they have sort of suffered through my last couple of years with me. My girls and I are tight, and they were worried about their mom.
So, here we are reader. You know the low down. I’ve bared my soul so perhaps you can understand why you don’t have Declan and Teagan, or Alec, or any other character’s books yet. I’ll get there, but I’m just not in a rush to do it. I’d rather give you, and my characters, the stories they deserve and my all.
Before I go, I want all of you to know that there’s no shame in having a mental health issue. And if you, or someone you love, is suffering from a mental health issue—hang in there! There is always hope if you never give up.
Thank you for giving my books a chance.
Thank you for sending me notes, comments and love through messages and emails.
Thank you for giving me time and space to get healthy again. I love you all for it so much.
All my love,