The Denouement

I’ve always loved that word—denouement. I love to say it, love to hear it. I love the idea of a word that describes the resolution after the climax. For me, the climax of 2021 was the launch of The Burning Light of Two Stars. After ten years writing it and a year publishing it, the book ended up having a rolling launch because of Covid-related supply chain problems. It came out in October-Novemberish.

And now it is formally launched, a newborn that is a full adult with a life of its own.

So now the denouement. What is it like coming off a massive yearlong work push where I felt more like a machine checking off tasks than a human being?

These post-launch weeks have been about reclaiming my humanity. Reconstellating and stepping back into the rest of my life. Becoming three-dimensional. Every day, I walk or swim. I’ve been relishing the incredible varied beauty of Santa Cruz, forest and ocean. Reconnecting with friends I was far too busy and driven to connect with. And I’m back in the kitchen: cooking and trying new recipes. My return to teaching has been a joy, but it doesn’t consume my life. There is space in between things. You mean I don’t have to work like that forever?

After the launch, I had the incredibly good fortune to eke out a real vacation in Baja, California just as Omicron was starting to ramp up. Karyn and I went there to visit our oldest son and daughter-in-law, our youngest grandkids. I left my laptop at home—which at the time felt a bit like cutting off my arm. In Mexico, I read five novels. I swam. I snorkeled. Hung out with family. Watched kite surfers do amazing tricks in the air above the Sea of Cortez. I drank tequila and beer and ate a lot of fresh fish tacos. We lived primarily outdoors.

Best of all, I was able to stop obsessing on my Amazon reviews, my Goodreads reviews, the sales figures I wished were higher. I realized that linking my happiness and well-being to metrics would kill me. I can’t control what happens with the sales of The Burning Light of Two Stars. Numbers do not support my well-being. They go up; they go down. I cannot control them. Not at all.

My first book, The Courage to Heal, was wildly successful—but I didn’t make it wildly successful. Six months after its publication, it just took off. Thirty-four years later, it’s still selling. My co-author, Ellen Bass, and I published it at the right moment, and it had the right message for the time. And so, I know the power of influence a book can have. I know how it feels to sell a million books, and it’s hard not to want that again. But this is a different time and a different book and different world. The Burning Light of Two Stars is newly born—its trajectory yet to be determined.

In the denouement, I am learning to focus not on numbers, but on what readers tell me every day:

“You’ve transformed the memoir and taken it to another level.”

“Your book touched me in places I thought I’d never go. I will be thinking about it possibly for years.”

“I read it in two long, quiet nights and am totally overwhelmed with its beauty, its honesty, its kick-ass bravery to say the deepest and most important things.”

“You speak the words I never knew I felt.”

“I had forgotten the pure joy and compelling nature of a very well-written story.”

“I couldn’t put it down. It reads like a poem.”

“My husband just handed me your book this morning, He read it in two days. Yesterday afternoon, I walked into his room and found him crying, He looked up and said, ‘This is a powerful book. Down to the bones—the very bones.’”

“I learned from your book and was utterly transformed by it.”

“Some of the most valuable time I’ve ever spent with a book.”

“I’ve read a lot of memoirs, and this might be the best.”

No wonder I’m smiling. Touching lives—that’s what matters.


The Burning Light of Two Stars is available in paperback, eBook, and audiobook wherever books are sold. There are links here to buy signed copies, bulk copies, and to support independent bookstores with your purchase. You can also read the first five chapters for free.

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