Reflections on 2020: Publishing My First Book During a Pandemic by Judith Gonda
2020 started out with such promise. The first book in my landscape architect Tory Benning mystery series, MURDER IN THE SECRET MAZE, was set to release on February 26. I was finally going to have a book published.
The corona virus first penetrated my consciousness in early January. My younger daughter and her new husband were honeymooning in Asia. They arrived back in town just before LAX started to crack down and test incoming travelers. I felt an uneasiness as stories about virus-stricken travelers in Seattle, northern California, and then, Los Angeles, populated the news.
In March I was set to moderate a Left Coast Crime writers conference panel on Analyzing Murder: The Psychology of Crime, which for me was my coming out party of sorts, the first writers conference I would attend as a published author. I got busy reading panelists’ books in between practicing my short pitch for a debut author breakfast at the same conference. But none of that was meant to be.
As California’s Governor Gavin Newsom started to talk shut down and the NBA cancelled games, high risk people from my conference panel started to bow out, as I eventually did, too, two days before the conference started.
Then a pandemic was declared. It paralyzed me initially, but deadlines loomed ahead, and I threw myself into book-release activities.
So, debut and launch opportunities lost, or were they? I tried to do what I do every time life throws me a curve ball–I try my best to adapt.
On the plus side, I’ve had fewer competing demands on my writing time. With no social invitations to worry about, I wrote my heart out. It was a great escape to visit fictional Santa Sofia, smell the sea breeze, the pine scent from Christmas trees, even imagining my own hair frizzing in the marine layer.
Ralph’s Instacart has also been a big plus and has become my new BFF. I don’t miss lugging heavy groceries. No more time wasted waiting in line at checkout either.
Another positive aspect has been that I get to spend more uninterrupted time with my two rescue Pomeranians, Izzy and Ollie. All three of us belong to a mutual admiration club, my husband is an associate member.
I’m a developmental research psychologist by training, and I’m always examining behavior, my own included. This time with the stress of the pandemic, my anxiety was different. I think it was because the pandemic shook me so much, I not only needed to write but it was also a legitimate excuse to think about my plot instead of worrying about whether we were all going to die.
My debut didn’t have the launch I’d envisioned. But its virtual launch was just fine. With so many new behaviors to learn, from working with an editor and promotion, in a way it was better because I absorbed information at my own pace. Now with the second Tory Benning mystery, MURDER IN THE CHRISTMAS TREE LOT, just released three weeks ago, I’ve adjusted my book launch expectations and expanded my social media skills to announce its release.
Looking back puts things in perspective. It could always be worse. But looking ahead, I’m hopeful the future will be better.
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Judith Gonda is a mystery writer and Ph.D. psychologist with a penchant for Pomeranians and puns, so it’s not surprising that psychology, Poms, and puns pop up in her amateur sleuth mysteries featuring landscape architect Tory Benning. To learn more about her books, please visit her website: https://www.judithgonda.com