I knew something was wrong the minutes I saw my mother walking up to the front door of my house. Although my mom only lives about ten minutes away, she rarely, if ever, stops by my house unannounced. It isn’t that she isn’t welcome, anytime, it’s just that she always calls before she comes over, mostly because she knows how busy my wife and family are. This August afternoon though, I happened to glance out the front window (the school year hadn’t started yet, so I was still home with the kids for summer break) and saw her walking up the steps and I just knew something wasn’t right.
I opened the door and invited my mom inside. We sat down on the couch and started the small talk as my three children ran into the room to see their grandma. After a few minutes, my mom asked the kids to go play in the back room for a little bit because she needed to talk to me about something important. My stomach dropped at her words. Once the kids disappeared into the back of the house, she broke the news: she had cancer.
Needless to say, my mom’s announcement had a profound effect on me. Surprise, shock, anger, frustration and fear all flooded into my heart and mind. I tried to be strong for her. I tried to offer words of encouragement. I tried not to show her how worried I was, but I am pretty sure I failed miserably. I also started thinking about a promise I had made to her years before. I promised I had failed to keep.
Although I love my mother and have a close relationship with her, I think that our relationship is rather unique. There are two things that make this relationship unique: our love of books and our love of politics. My mother shaped my political ideas and beliefs in ways she probably doesn’t even realize and she instilled in me a love of reading that nearly borders on obsession. I am just like my mother in this respect. My mother is an avid reader. She always has a book she is working on. I learned to appreciate books and reading because of my mother’s example. In fact, this is one of the reasons I always dreamed of being a writer. I wanted to write a book that my mother would be proud to read, which brings me back to the promise I had made to my mother several years before.
I promised my mother that she would see me in print before she died, which is one of the reasons that I was so shocked when she told me that she had cancer. I hadn’t been published yet and right then, I didn’t know how much time I had left to make good on my promise. I had already finished writing my first novel Sex, Lies, and the Classroom and almost finished with my second The M-16 Agenda when she broke the news. Unfortunately, I simply had not had any luck getting them published. I had been trying for over a year to find an agent or a publisher who was willing to take a chance on me, but to no avail. Although I had looked into self-publishing, I just wasn’t sure if it was the way to go because I still dreamed of landing the traditional book deal with a major publisher.
Now, I was scrambling. I desperately needed to find a way to get published, but I didn’t know how much time my mother had. I hit the internet, did research, contacted another round of agents, submitted to some small presses, all in an effort to fulfill my promise to my mother.
It happened a couple of days after the Thanksgiving break. A student of mine can to show me the book she had just published through a company named Createspace. I hadn’t heard of Createspace, but I proceeded to pick her brain to learn as much as I could. When I got home from school that night, I pulled out the computer and got to work. I re-edited Sex, Lies, and the Classroom, sent it off to my editor for another look and signed up for Createspace. In the days that followed, I frantically tried to put my book together. I polished the manuscript, took photos for the cover, designed a cover, and did everything I could to have the book ready by Christmas.
When I finally had everything ready, I submitted my work to Createspace and waited for it to be approved. Those were some of the longest 48 hours of my life. Then, I ordered proof copies of the book, paid the extra postage to have them delivered on time, and then desperately waited for them to show up in the mail. They arrived on Christmas Eve. I had ordered two proof copies as Christmas gifts for two special people: my wife and my mother.
One of the Christmas traditions my wife and I have developed over the course of our 17 years of marriage is that we each get a book in our Christmas stocking. Unfortunately, it is also tradition that we look in our stocking after the kids have opened all their presents. It was hard to wait for my wife to get into her stocking and at first she didn’t realize that she was looking at my book, the book that I had written. When she finally realized what she was looking at, she let out a shout and threw her arms around me in a huge hug. I then had to explain everything to her about Createspace and getting my book self-published (I obviously hadn’t told her about it yet).
When it was time to head over to my parent’s house for Christmas dinner, I was bouncing in anticipation. I could barely wait to give my mom her present. Although it was obvious that she wasn’t feeling very well that Christmas day (the chemo treatments were taking their toll), the look of pure joy that broke across her face when she torn the wrapping paper off her present and saw my name on the book in her hand is one that I will member and cherish for the rest of my life.
Although the struggle has been hard, I am happy to say that my mother is still with us today and although I won’t be presenting her with another one of my books this Christmas, she has witnessed the publication of my second novel The M-16 Agenda and my newest release Musings of a Particular Bear: A Poetry Collection.
This is why when friends and fellow readers ask me why I decided to self-publish, I usually smile, and say, “My mom made me do it.”