Never since my first book was published in 2013 have I ever missed a publisher's deadline.
Despite things like: travel, solo call coverage of an entire practice for years, leading a rural hospital during the biggest wave of the COVID pandemic in 2020-2021, giving writing talks, moving a few times, book signings, drafting more books -- I still somehow managed to meet deadline and stayed calm doing it. From 2013 through the present.
Until this month.
There's got to be a limit to what a human being can endure, and no, I don't think I've reached the limit yet. But holy cow I came closer than I've come, and there have been moments where the exhaustion is so profound that I'm completely numb.
Here's what the last 45 days entailed:
1) First and foremost: My younger brother was admitted to hospice 2 weeks ago. He's a special needs kind of guy who has been medically fragile his whole life. Mom and Dad and I have known this day was coming -- frankly, we thought it would have gotten here before now. We've prepared. Hell, Mom has completed my brother's funeral service months ago so that my folks wouldn't have to deal with it whenever my brother passed. That's smart. And heartbreaking. Despite all the preparations, getting that phone call from Mom on a random Monday morning was about as shitty of a conversation as you can imagine. Here's me not going to pieces because Mom needs me to talk with the doctor to go over "medical stuff" and make sure everyone's on the same page. I'm good at compartmentalizing, but not this good. My head and my heart hurt. All that said, the joke in the family is that my brother is like a cat with 9 lives, and probably as one big joke on us, he'll plunk along for way longer than anyone predicts. Out of spite and a good sense of humor. Oh, my heart.
2) My colleague who splits most of the practice with, officially resigned. Who has two thumbs and has to take 20+ days of Ob and c-section call each month? This gal.
3) A smidge of writing stress. I'm finishing up one big project that's been years in the making while waiting to hear back on an entirely different big project, and basically my brain is too locked up to do much creating these days, which then creates a whole new set of worries. Add in the fact that I should be doing marketing and publicity, which frankly I suck at because #DayJob, and whammo -- self-doubt/vapor lock/stress, here we are.
4) Sheer exhaustion from work: Never did I imagine that I'd be starting an entire medical practice from scratch including an outpatient clinic, an inpatient hospitalist service line, and an Ob line. Then, just for giggles, I'd turn around and start an entire other outpatient clinic from scratch. And hey, just found out we are opening yet another clinic. None of this would be an issue, except that I'm only paid to do administration work for 0.2 FTE yet my hours correspond to 0.5 FTE admin. And my clinical time should be 0.8 FTE but based on hours of clinic and call, it's well over 1.0 FTE. Nothing like 20+ days of call in a row to make me doubt my life choices. Like, I dream about work, I'm so buried in it. That's not great.
5) Speaking of life choices and bad admin FTE allocation, the MotherShip wants me to take on yet another bigger administrative job, and as a reward will give me a bit more admin time. Talk about an existential crisis. I'm like, let me get this straight. You people want me to do the current admin job 0.5 FTE which is only allotted 0.2 and then add in a second admin job at 0.3, for a grand total 0.4 admin FTE. Look, I'm no calculus genius, but those numbers do not math correctly. I swear to god, my boss looked me dead-ass in the eye and said, "It's not that much extra work. And it's not really an extra job." To which I said: "Is it a separate job for anyone else? If so, then yuh huh it's another entire job." After some gut-wrenching talks with mentors and colleagues as sounding boards, I decided to professionally tell the MotherShip to kick rocks. That was something they're not used to hearing, and hoo boy was that a fun chat.
6) Lord have mercy, we have been constructing a house for nearly a year. It was promised to be done in 12/22. That's over 6 months overdue. And we finally moved in last weekend, because of course we did. Know what's fun about a flaky contractor? Discovering what items weren't exactly completed as promised. My favorite story in this brand new house is when Hubs went to hang some clothes in his closet and the hanging rack fell down from the wall, as if no stud whatsoever had been involved in the hanging of said rack.
7) Given the DayJob situation and a complete lack of alignment with my values of sleep and writing and not being burned out, I'm looking at some other job opportunities versus completely retiring from medicine. Hello, existential crisis!
I will say this: I'm in such a better headspace than a few weeks ago, and so much of all that's going on has sunk in. I've also made a few life decisions that have taken all the pressure off. Basically, I invested in myself and called my own number, and that's made a massive difference. And as for the writing and editing? Somehow I returned a 350 page manuscript while staring into the abyss. It's done. 2 weeks over but it's done.
Still, hoo boy. I'm reminded of a hospital chaplain who hears the regrets of dying patients every day. He says: "Live deeply. Do not waste time on everyone else’s vision for you." And he's right. It's scary to state to people: here's what I want out of life, but that's what is needed. And hopefully, there won't be any missed deadlines in the future. And there will be plenty of time for what's important and for letting my brain just think and enjoying these trips around the sun!
A while back, someone had asked how I'd met my husband. It's a bit of a story, so kick back and enjoy. Here's my "meet cute"!!
However many years ago, I was working in a tiny rural mountain town west of the Mississippi. One of the perks of this particular location was a local ski area nearby. It was so close, that I could ski and take hospital call at the same time. #winning
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Baker County Tourism Travel Baker County www.flickr.com/photos/travelbakercounty/ 1/12/2019
As you may know, when it comes to chairlifts, there is a line for groups of 2 or 3 or 4 (depending on lift size and group sizes), and then there is the 'singles line' for -- you guessed it -- people skiing/snowboarding solo. (Side note: if you want to cut down on waiting in line, even if you're with friends, the singles line is usually quickest.) Anyway, as I'd done with many days, I got into the singles line and a dude joined me on the lift. I said my obligatory "How it's going" and apparently that was all it took. The conversation floodgates opened.
This helmeted, Hawaiian shirt-wearing, mirror-goggled, ew ... snowboarder ... started talking. Friends, when I say started talking, I mean that once he began he did not stop talking for nearly 2 hours. That's right, we chatted our way up the lift, down a run, up another lift, down yet another run, and on it went. At some point, it came up that I was in healthcare and Future Hubs -- who does NOT have a healthcare background -- actually tried to work in the terms "medulla oblongata" and "uvula" into casual conversation to try and impress me. It was so, so wrong, but hilarious!
As luck would have it, I got called in urgently to the hospital, and had to make an abrupt departure, but not before Future Hubs asked if we could meet up again the next weekend at the ski park. I was game. We exchanged digits. The plan was that I'd call him when I got to the parking area the following Saturday, and we'd go from there.
The next weekend's meetup was a bluebird day, about as fantastic of an early spring ski day as you can get. Clear blue sky, 30 degree temps, snow was not too dry and not too slushy. I parked at the base of the ski park and called Future Hubs. After several rings it went to voice mail. I left a brief message, shrugged, and thought, "I'm being ghosted. Hey, not a problem. If he changed his mind, then no harm no foul. I can take a hint. But I'm still going to have a good day." And so I skied that afternoon in the glorious snow and sunshine and had a fantastic time.
Later that evening, Future Hubs called me all flustered and apologetic. He'd been at the ski park when I called. In fact, he had been riding a lift. His phone had rang and when he went to get the phone, he fumbled with gloves on and ... dropped the phone about fifty feet below him into a snowbank. He tried to identify the spot, finally got off the lift at the top, then snowboarded down to the place where the phone fell. No phone. He looked all over. Nothing. Dejected (or so he tells it), Future Hubs drove the hour and a half back to the bigger town where he lived. He called his cell phone number and a person answered. Another skier had retrieved the phone and figured the owner would eventually call. That person mailed the phone back to him.
Future Hubs then called me with what I felt was the most ridiculous excuse for blowing off a semi-date I'd ever heard. However, I did find that he was sincere in his depiction of the disaster. I'm not sure if I completely believed his reason for not meeting up with me. But with points awarded for creativity of the excuse, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, and we went on an actual date a week later.
It was at that actual date where he showed up in normal human clothes, that I learned that Future Hubs was ... bald. You see, he hadn't removed his helmet at any point during the 2 hours of skiing together. Now I knew why. True, this might have been one of the biggest bait-and-switches I'd ever experienced, but by then, it was too late: We got along well, and the rest of the story was history!
Friends, if you see a mildly flustered bald guy hovering around my author table at a signing, reciting random medical terms, feel free to ask him about our "meet cute" -- and you can get HIS side of the story!!
No photo attribution needed. Yup, this is us on our wedding day about a year after we got on that chairlift together! I don't remember the joke we shared right before this photo, but the whole day was basically hilarious with a few disastrous elements. Which seems pretty on-brand for us...
Finally have my head above water in the writing world, enough to write a quick blog post. Hi >waves at everyone<, hope all is well. I haven’t chatted a ton lately. Actually, if you get my newsletter, you’re getting more frequent updates and news.
I just finished a top secret medical romance manuscript. You all will be the first to know if anything comes of it in the publishing world, but it’s what you’ve come to expect in terms of pulse-pounding (yes, with a pulse requiring epi and a defibrillator) as well as hot and steamy scenes. The logline of this book is “Gray’s Anatomy meets Northern Exposure” or “General Hospital meets Life Below Zero.” (take your pick) I can’t wait to show it to you!
(photo credit: BLM Winter Bucket List #11: White Mountains National Recreation Area, Alaska, for Trails Surrounded by Rugged Beauty and Northern Lightshow" by mypubliclands is licensed under CC BY 2.0.)
This medical romance book was shockingly difficult for me to write. Which is funny, if you consider my Day Job as a rural family doctor! If I examine the hesitation honestly, I’ve put off writing a medical romance for many years, even though that was my area of expertise. I think it was because the subject matter would have hit too close to home if I did it accurately. And if I turned it into something like New Amsterdam (blarf) or Gray’s Anatomy (seriously, who does stuff like that?), which is what audiences are used to seeing as “normal,” then it would have felt super weird.
To be clear: Treating a massive fluid-flinging trauma or doing a sweaty 6-hour surgery, then going back to the call room, ripping off scrubs, and having wild monkey sex? Gross and double gross. Anyone with rudimentary knowledge of germ theory and a working nose can understand why those post-crisis call room sex scenes just skeeve me the heck out.
The other thing I know is that this project is the most personal to me to date – more than any other book I’ve written, this one pulled in a ton of lived experience. I came out of the writing cave feeling emotionally exposed in ways that surprised me.
Which parts are real and which parts are fiction? I’ll never tell …!
(I mean, you can rule out the call room sex right off the bat. Seriously, just look at all the sweat and germs in that sterile scene!)
Here are the ‘lost’ two opening chapters of FALLEN COMRADE – these were cut after the first round of querying was not successful, so many years ago! Feedback suggested that, while good, the first two chapters delayed the “meet-cute” too long and the book would be better off without them. I’m still darn proud of these two chapters – they were the source of some contest wins along the way!
Happy reading! – Jillian
Nothing good came from a knock on the front door after 9 p.m.
Kiera McNeill froze, halfway down the vacuous hallway of her suburban Atlanta home. She shivered, and not from the cool March air or lower house temperature required ‘to keep equipment running at optimal levels.’ Before she stepped onto the cut stone pavers of the spacious foyer, her pretend husband for this undercover operation, Mateo, bolted out of a back room, flipped off the hall lights, and grabbed her wrist, yanking her back.
“Stop,” he hissed. “The silent alarm triggered a few seconds ago. Damn it.” He pressed the side of a fist next to a fake photo hanging on the cream-colored wall. “We’re technically still in the field. Not yet sure who’s out there. Or how many.”
True. She hadn’t heard any car doors close. Whoever knocked was either quiet or had left the vehicle doors open.
The fact that whoever was outside the house must be a threat? Testimony to how bizarre her sheltered world had become.
An imaginary hand tightened around her neck. On instinct, she brushed her fingers over her swollen belly, and the nudge in response from Little Bit made her palm jump. This baby always surprised her. Figured. Then again, being pregnant hadn’t been part of Kiera’s plans.
Nor had she planned on Mateo, her partner in this unofficial mission, pretending to be the baby’s father.
Low voices filtered through the front door.
Her mouth went dry.
“Wait,” he whispered, stepping past her. He inched down the wall to the end of the hallway and eased the bottom of a fake picture frame to the side, revealing small screens that relayed images from the front stoop and around the house. “Too many of them. Shit. One is at the back door.” He pushed the frame back over the monitor with a secure click.
She jumped at a louder bang on the front door.
A few quick updates for my readers.
Hidden Comrade, book #2 of my Project Morpheus series, has a release date of 1/20/23! Watch this space for more details!
I have a new social media presence on Mastodon. Feel free to follow me there, just in case the little bird app flies away...
Yesterday at 3:45 pm, I submitted my 2nd book in the Project Morpheus romantic suspense series! That will be the 10th book I've had published. What a milestone. It still feels like a big relief and weight off to finally get the book out the door. No less a relief than on the first book published in 2015!
That's not to say it's the 10th book I've ever written. My very first book will stay buried under the bed forever, it was so bad. I have one more book in Project Morpheus drafted, 3 books in a Chicago FBI series drafted, and a medical romance series where the first book is partly drafted. So, really it's 15 1/2 books written. That's a decent accomplishment!
I'm trying out a new website format/theme. Don't love it yet, and I might play around with some tabs and categories. Unfortunately, I'm no graphic design guru, so it's trial and error (heavy on the "error") when it comes to websites.
You all -- I am so excited to have a new book coming out 7/26/22!
FALLEN COMRADE, book #1 in the Project Morpheus romantic suspense series, is being published by Evernight and I cannot squee enough about how much I love this book!
This is the book that has been in the ether for about 6 years. In the book, I took some big-time writing risks and tackle challenging topics and situations. Quite frankly I allow things to get very uncomfortable and scary (spoiler alert, it's a happily-ever-after -- no worries -- I've got you!). It was emotionally difficult for me to write and even harder to execute with appropriate sensitivity and, also ... application of the laws of physics (you'll see what I mean when you read it).
So basically I'm using this blog post to expand on some mentoring activities I might be doing later this year. They said "100 word bio" and I basically used 5 words to say "more mentoring info at: my website"
That's not cheating. That's using resources effectively and working within parameters! :)
Over the past several years I've done varying levels of mentoring. You'll see me supporting great causes like Romance for Reproductive Justice with my usual offering of a 3 chapter critique. I've done some volunteer mentoring for Tessera Editorial clients and had a fun time working with folks there! I'm proud to say that I've had a small role to play in teaching craft and spiffing up the first 3 chapters for several terrific new authors. Some of whom have gotten book deals with television rights. Looking at you, Yas! (I'd love to take credit for any of it, but that was all due to her amazing story.)
So I am admittedly a smidge reclusive -- er, reluctant -- to do videos that go out on the interwebs. But I couldn't pass up the opportunity to sit down with Shay Baby of Brown Book Series at the recent Chicago Spring Fling Conference and boy was it a hoot!
Shay is the loveliest person and made the live interview mostly painless.
I did my best to name drop other authors and indepedent bookstores, but honestly I ended up saying whatever hit my brain and BOY OH BOY IS THAT DANGEROUS!
Anyway, feel free to check out yours truly in live action in all her awkward, ghost-like glory FULL YOUTUBE INTERVIEW HERE
If you want the highlights, here you go:
1) breaking news at 2:16
2) editing while waiting for a patient to dilate 4:11
Author, daydreamer, and practitioner of trying very hard to duct tape folks together and help when I can.
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