Happy 5th Birthday to The Poison Box!

My most beloved book baby, The Poison Box, turns 5 years old today. Actually, that only marks her debut into the world. She’s actually much older than that - more like 23 years old! I started that book when I was 19 years old and rewrote it several times until I was satisfied with it.

I’m launching a week-long celebration on social media to honor my sweet book baby. I love this book so much and am so proud of the work I put into it. And Mary Raedwolfe, the protagonist, has become a dear, dear companion over these long decades. In fact, I’m still writing her story. I’m almost finished with the next book in the series, and halfway done with the third!

Here’s a video in which I talk about the book, and the sequels. Please forgive the video - my camera really did a number on me and there are a few places in the video where the audio and video don’t match up (ugh, major pet peeve of mine!). My apologies. Maybe just listen instead of watching. ;)

Please follow along on social media and join in the fun!

Thank you, friends and readers for your support.

Writing Taught Me

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I grew up in the dawning days of technology. I was blessed not to have a computer in the house. There were no cell phones, and certainly no DVD players.

I, like all children at that time, had to find my entertainment in books and my imagination.

As much as I loved school, I would rush home every single day, impatient to stuff a handful of crackers into my pockets, grab my newest book, and run out to the backyard to sit on the swing and read for hours. Saturdays were even better - a full day of reading. I'd set up two patio chairs facing each other, and lay a beach towel over them, creating a little bed. There I would sit for 8 hours, oblivious to my little siblings playing around me, the dogs running by, my father mowing the lawn.

I was lost in the world of E.L. Konigsberg and John Bellairs. Witches, magic, history, mystery - I loved it all.

I was lucky to retain my love of reading even as technology began to creep into the house. As a teenager, I often chose a Nancy Drew novel over the latest Blockbuster rental or computer game. I could read through an entire book in 3 hours and I'd greedily dig through the family bookshelf, looking for more.

These books influenced me so deeply. By the time I was 10, I knew I was going to be a writer when I grew up. The first book I wrote, at that tender age, addressed what it meant to be a warrior for goodness, purity, and innocence. Reading and writing guided the development of my morality, my compassion, and my soul.

Copyright: Y. Lael 2017

Copyright: Y. Lael 2017

Looking back, I can see that the practice of writing helped me develop into the person I am today. I learned discipline and tenacity through my determination to complete the writing projects that I started. The characters that entered my dreams demanded to be fully realized, and for them, I wrote tirelessly, feverishly. I completed five full-length novels by the time I was 25 years old, honing that discipline, learning what it took to give my all to a project, developing a strong work ethic.

And though it took much longer to cultivate, books, reading, and writing also taught me courage. It took many years before I was brave enough to share my work with others and even more years before I dipped my toes into the process of submitting queries for publication. But just as before, my characters and my ideas were so insistent on being heard, I felt compelled to obey that call, even if only one baby step at a time.

I've remained faithful to my craft all these years later, taking what I've learned from writing to every job I've had. The lessons of determination, creativity, discipline, and courage have served me well across industries - from teaching to program coordination. And in the meantime, while pursuing publication, my writing practice has given me yet another gift: ingenuity. I've learned the very complicated ins and outs of self-publishing for the projects that don't want to wait for traditional contracts. I've learned how to format books, create book covers, and even how to create audiobooks, independently.

I've learned that having a passionate calling is a blessing. Our dreams and talents and the books we read not only make us who we are, but teach us all the lessons that we need to learn in order to become the best versions of ourselves.

And I have lived happily ever after (with many books and my laptop at hand).

The Poison Box has arrived!

I wrote the first version of this book when I was 20. In the middle of the book, the protagonist's sister, Mary, died. After I completed the book, I realized that the whole story SHOULD have been about Mary in the first place.

I rewrote the entire book when I was about 23, setting it in the 1960's. Three years of writing and research only to realize: The characters did not belong in the 60's.

After returning home from a year-long artistic binge in Santa Fe, NM, I rewrote the entire book AGAIN. I finished this version of the book in June 2002. I tried to publish it, but soon became frustrated with the plot and characters. Into hibernation it went.

In the years that followed, I attempted to rewrite the entire book again and again. But I kept coming back to the third version - there was some good stuff in there that I didn't want to lose. Frustration. More hibernation.

This is me in the midst of 24/7 editing. Yes, in my pajamas. February 2014

This is me in the midst of 24/7 editing. Yes, in my pajamas. February 2014

I heard about the Amazon Breakout Novel Contest in January of this year and suddenly I had no more excuses: Sit on the novel forever, or let Mary tell her story. I spent almost a month editing the manuscript, sometimes for 10+ hours a day. And...I didn't even make it past the first round of cuts!

So I decided to just put it out there, contest or not. Seventeen years later, the proof arrived in the mail and though I'm still annoyed with the book's imperfections (a.k.a. my shortcomings as a writer), seeing this story in book form is the achievement of one of my greatest dreams in life.

This is for Mary, who has been my imaginary companion for almost two decades and who will probably always be somewhere, in the corners of my mind!