Books

Seizures, daughters, and books that matter

Seizures, daughters, and books that matter

In the life of an epilepsy mom, the longest minute of your life is the one when your child stops breathing.

Elizabeth with friends after seizure
Elizabeth (center) on her 14th birthday with friends who surrounded and helped her during a seizure.

I’ve been through it more than once.  I’ve seen Elizabeth turn completely blue on the floor of a restaurant.

I’ve dried her off, shivering, after seizing in a downpour at Disneyland.

I’ve snatched her off play equipment, lifted her out of swimming pools. Once I slammed my way through a crowd at a football stadium after she got just enough warning to march off the field during a halftime show. She hid behind a bench to avoid anyone in the huge audience pulling out a cell phone and hitting record while she seized.

Being a teen with epilepsy during the era of instant social media has extra challenges.

Today, Elizabeth turns 19. Her last year as a teen. After taking a gap year to avoid the perils of catching Covid 19 while battling epilepsy, she’s planning for her first apartment, for her classes in the fall.

It’s time to let go.

Elizabeth graduation
Elizabeth made a Coronavirus piñata to smash after losing prom and graduation to the pandemic.

I’ve written about her many times on this blog, filed under Elizabeth. It’s been a long road as anti-seizure meds often don’t work for her. As she moved to her teen years, we spent a week at Dell Children’s Hospital to see if she was a candidate for brain surgery. (She isn’t.)

I learned about the Disco Room in the epilepsy ward, where teens with seizure disorders could meet each other and dance without fear of the lights, as nurses waited by the door. The moment I saw it, I knew absolutely, the book I would write for Elizabeth would begin there.

I didn’t write it right away. Elizabeth’s condition deteriorated during that year and we struggled to find any treatment that would work for her at all. During the worst period, she had two seizures in a day. Sometimes they began with her terrified screaming that would unnerve even the calmest of nurses or emergency techs before she fell unconscious.

A few months later, when we thought we had a medicine that was helping, it happened again during a field trip with her American Sign Language class. I got the call and raced to the mall, noting four enormous red fire trucks at the entrance. Were they for her?

They were.

As I ran down the walkway, eight tricked-out fire fighters strode through the doors like the opening to a big movie action-adventure scene. Elizabeth was going to tell me all about them! Except when I found her with the EMTs, she didn’t know what I was talking about. She had no memory of walking through the mall, of collapsing, and certainly not of eight hunky fire fighters surrounding her and clearing space.

Three years later, she still doesn’t remember them.

Elizabeth with her car
Elizabeth surprised by the pink car she always wanted.

Epilepsy patients often lose as much as a half-hour before each seizure, so it wasn’t unusual. Still, I studied memory loss with seizures and learned about how the hippocampus part of the brain could be hit.  I found cases where seizures caused complete, permanent memory loss. One more thing to worry about.

But in late 2018, ten years into our fight, we got a miracle — a new anti-seizure medicine combination that worked. Months flew by with no problems. Elizabeth learned to drive and got her first car. The independence we weren’t certain would ever come had arrived.

I never stopped thinking about that Disco Room, so I wrote the first scene of Elizabeth’s book, two teens meeting for the first time under the colored lights of a disco ball. The boy works up the nerve to introduce himself. They grin. It’s working.

Then the girl has a seizure and forgets he exists.

images for the book

I spent three years writing and revising. I queried it out in each iteration, learning from the kind words of agents who thought the concept of epilepsy and memory loss was important.

And finally, I got it right.

I’m pleased to announce I’m represented by Jess Regel of the Helm Agency. She has a brilliant vision for the finishing touches of the book, and then we’ll try our hand at finding a publishing home.

My journey as Elizabeth’s mom will never be over. I’ll still be racing across town at the call from someone who finds my number on her emergency alert bracelet or pulls it from her phone.

But the book we envisioned together has finally found its footing.

We hope it finds its way into the hands of teens like her. My fiercest goal is for other teens with epilepsy to see themselves in the story and read about how to cope, and more importantly, about finding the love we all deserve.

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth. The journey has been long, and hard, but I’d do it all over again to arrive at the wonderful young woman you’ve become.

Forever Innocent, 7 years later

Forever Innocent, 7 years later

Radish

Late last year, I was contacted by Radish, a reading app for phones, asking to publish a long serialized version of my series that begins with Forever Innocent. With six books, they told me, I would have a successful run with their readers.

So in January, we began the process of breaking the books into episodes, a lot like a TV series, so readers could unlock a chapter a day and begin the story of Gavin and Corabelle that I completed so long ago.

Tomorrow, the final episode of the very last book will go live.

Radish allows readers to comment on episodes as they read. The feedback on this tender, emotional story (which many readers call an “ugly cry”) has been amazing. It’s different from the reviews I get on the main book platforms like Amazon or Apple Books, where they talk about their experience with the entire book, one they may have read in a single long sitting.

These readers are experiencing the book a day at a time. And because of my writing style, where I rarely skip even a fictional day (I have entire novels that take place over a scant 72-hour period in the characters’ lives), it’s almost like you’re living the story.

I’m having a wonderful time talking with these new fans, learning about their own lost babies (so many, too many), and seeing their reactions in real time.

If you’ve never read the Forever Series, you can do that on your phone whenever you want. The setup is that one episode unlocks for free every day. If you get anxious to keep going on a given day, you can pay to unlock them faster. It’s not a lot, less than fifteen cents an episode.

I’m excited to see the direction books go in the coming years, from print, to eBooks, to apps like Radish. And as we celebrate the final chapter of my Forever series all over again, yeah, I’m shedding a lot of tears. I’ve been reading along with the new fans. Taking in the story after all this time is magical, as if someone else weaved the story and gave it just to me so that I can also remember those hard days after losing a baby, and relive the wonder of when I did finally get a family of my own.

If you’d like to check out Radish, look for it in your phone’s app store. To go directly to Forever Innocent on Radish, click here.

The Little Dude Book is here!

I’ve never had a book more people have asked for than this one!

A couple years ago, before we adopted Little Dude, I typed up the very first conversation between him and Elizabeth. We were out walking, hoping to find a good spot to view the super moon. It went like this:

Eliza: Look at the super moon! It’s so big!
LD: No it’s not! I could hold it in my hand!
Eliza: It’s only small because it’s far away. It’s a super moon because it’s closer than usual.
LD: I don’t see a cape. It’s not a super anything.
Eliza: Sigh.
LD: Can it be a Batman moon instead?

The response was tremendous. Friends and family wanted to know more about this Little Dude who had entered our lives. We were unable to share details or pictures, so our extended circle came to know him from the conversations I posted every so often.

The conversations covered the period when Little Dude was five and six, crossing the point when he went from a foster child to our adopted son.

I’m still quite protective of him online, but I believe the conversations we’ve had paint a very solid picture of our funny, mysterious, unique little guy.

Here’s the book you all wanted so much:

Welcome to the Dude’s Eye View.

Little Dude arrived in his sixth (and final!) foster home at age 4.

He brought with him a wicked sense of humor and a take on the world his foster parents had never heard before.

From his unique perspective, you’ll learn

• the logic of lint traps
• the necessity of bribing reindeer
• why Girl Scout cookies are suitable for breakfast, and most of all
• the importance of wearing a cape

Along the way, you’ll see a lost little boy (and his mom!) navigate the emotional and complicated world of adoption from foster care.

Ebooks:
Apple Books: http://bit.ly/LDude-Ap
Nook: http://bit.ly/LDude-BN
Kobo: http://bit.ly/LDude-Kobo
Amazon: http://bit.ly/LDude-Zon
Google Play: http://bit.ly/LDude-GP

Paperback or Hardcover:
Powell’s Books: http://bit.ly/LDude-Powells
Books A Million: http://bit.ly/LDude-BAM
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2DRKkvi
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/LDude-hardBN
Indie Bound: http://bit.ly/LDude-InB

Forever Christmas, my rainbow baby book, has arrived

It’s here!

My mission to help grieving moms through story has come to its conclusion! The rainbow baby is often the end of the grief journey, even though losing a child to miscarriage or stillbirth or infant death is forever part of your life story, one that will create feelings of sorrow at unexpected moments for always.

Today we celebrate rainbows and see how far we’ve come.

The FOREVER books
A USA Today bestselling series

Six years ago, Corabelle and Gavin’s journey into family began with an unplanned pregnancy in high school. Their baby was born prematurely with a heart condition, and died at seven days old. FOREVER INNOCENT (which is a free download) takes you through this journey.

The tragedy splits the couple, and the fallout from their choices leads them both back to the college they had originally chosen before the pregnancy. There, Gavin realizes Corabelle is the love of his life and he must make things right.

If you only read Book 1 and this final Book 6 of the series, you would get a fairly complete picture of what they go through. The middle four books deal with other complications as well as friends they make along they way.

Book 6, FOREVER CHRISTMAS takes you through the frightening second pregnancy for Corabelle, with all its tender hope and debilitating fear.

Rainbow babies are called the beauty after the storm. For anyone who has been touched by loss, these stories are an honest portrayal of how you live through the worst, and finally, the best days of your life.

You can get FOREVER INNOCENT for free here:
Amazon – https://deannaroy.com/ForeverInnocentZon
BN Free – https://deannaroy.com/ForeverInnocentBN
Kobo – https://deannaroy.com/ForeverInnocentKB
Google Play – https://deannaroy.com/ForeverInnocentGP
iTunes – https://deannaroy.com/ForeverInnocentIT

And the new release FOREVER CHRISTMAS is now available here:

iBooks: http://apple.co/2l9Ak84
BN/Nook: http://bit.ly/ForeverCNook
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2gZAmus
Kobo: http://bit.ly/ForCKobo
Google Play: http://bit.ly/ForCG

Thank you to EVERYONE who changed their profile picture to use the Forever Christmas frame this week. There are so many rainbow babies in the world. Over 100 of them have dedications in my book.

Rainbow Babies, Bonus Books, and the Ugly Cry Queen

When I lost my first baby, I didn’t think at the time I might one day write about it.

I was so alone in the world. I had just quit my job to be a mom. My Bunco group had turned into an endless series of baby showers for its members. That was treacherous territory now. So I quit. I spent my days in solitude.

My husband was bewildered, as many spouses are, at the length and depth and breadth of my grief. I half-heartedly looked for other jobs, but mostly I planted flowers and tried to make peace with something that would never, ever make sense.

By the time I got pregnant with Emily, I was more than a little dead to optimism. There was definitely a point when I started bleeding that I completely gave up hope and assumed she was dead. (Spoiler: she’s a freshman in college now.)

I have a public journal that I kept with her, as by that time my mission to help others who had lost pregnancies was in full swing at

The new series of dance standalones is here!

I really had to push myself these last six months to write. I had a child graduate high school, another child take a hard turn with her health (we’ll be at Dell Children’s Hospital all next week), and an adoption to finish (big day should be June 16!)

In this series, you see the other side of adoption, when a young girl must give up her baby, but finds a desperate, secret way to see her child a few years later.

Book 1: Forbidden Dance

I never should have danced with a stranger…
An emotional new novel from six-time USA Today bestselling author Deanna Roy

Three things about me:

1. I’m not as innocent as everybody thinks. I know I’m shy and quiet, but like they say, still waters run deep.

2. I’ve been home schooled since freshman year. It was punishment, but I deserved it. My parents didn’t know what else to do.

3. I’m not the greatest dancer, but it’s the only thing I love with all my heart. Actually, there is one other thing, but it’s the biggest secret of my life. One I can’t tell anyone. Not even you.

Which brings me to a surprise bonus thing to know.

4. I met Blitz Craven, you know, the super famous reality TV dance star. His show is like The Bachelor, only he’s looking for a dance partner. He showed up at my dance studio after his big disgrace, thinking he could use the wheelchair ballerinas I teach to get back in the world’s good favor.

When he looks at me, I know what he’s thinking. (See item number one.) Everyone wants to protect me from him, their shy, innocent Livia. But when we dance, I want it, more than anything. Soon we’re sneaking into back rooms, dancing, kissing, planning dates away from the cameras and the wrath of my family.

But I’m afraid. As thrilling as my life has become, I still have a secret. And if I stay with Blitz, the world will figure it out.

iBooks ~ Amazon ~ BN ~ Kobo ~ Google Play

The Book That Almost Never Was — Elektra Chaos

When I first started writing Elektra Chaos, things hadn’t gotten bad yet. My daughter Elizabeth, who is on the cover, had been diagnosed with epilepsy for four years at that point, and we had the seizures under control.

She was still going through a lot, as the medicine made her gain a lot of weight, and her previous friends had dumped her. But some of the other girls with a little more weight to them had picked her up and dusted her off, so we were getting through fifth grade.

I was about halfway through this book, which features a girl with epilepsy — the story Elizabeth wanted me to tell — when everything fell apart. The seizures returned. She couldn’t go through a week without one. Her life was regularly in danger as she tried to do normal things like climb playscapes or go swimming.

Then the medicine quit working completely. We tried another, and this one made her sick and listless. She lost an incredible amount of body weight in a dramatic few months. She couldn’t eat. Her skin got wounds that wouldn’t heal. I began to think she wasn’t going to come out of this. I began to wonder if my future was one without my little girl.

So I quit writing the book.

I still cry just thinking about those days.

With the help of our pediatrician and neurologist, we did get it turned around. We had three good years in middle school before everything started to fall apart again last summer. We’re still in that hard place, and to have the finished book come out while I’m back in darker days hasn’t been easy. Those who follow our story over on Facebook know she was discovered at Disneyland in a puddle, unconscious, having a seizure. They are a constant right now, anytime things get too loud or she feels off. We’re struggling to find a new way to control them.

But the book is here, and it’s important to us.

Elizabeth wanted to see an adventure story where the girl has seizures, and saves the world anyway.

Kindle iBooks Kobo Books a Million Nook

In this magic adventure novel, Elektra’s epilepsy is important, but not everything. It’s a story about a girl who thinks she’s meant to be the bully, the bad guy, and that makes it easier for her to handle the weirdness that comes with having such a difficult, embarrassing problem like seizures.

But suddenly, her magic power is asking more of her. To change. To be the hero she’s never thought she could be. At least she aims to try.

The book is written for 9-12 year olds, a lot like the original Harry Potter or early Rick Riordan books. I’m pleased to be done with it, but even MORE glad when my little Elektra at home finds a stable place again.

You can also see the other books in the series.

 

You can read more about Elizabeth in these blog posts.

Are you ready for me to blog about ALL THE THINGS?

Because, I am.

Because I just got my head above water again.

I’ve been on a journey. An important one. A super big one. But it got harder than we ever thought it would. And then, a few months ago, it became impossible.

We are still adopting our little boy. Things are on a different track than they were, but we’re sorting through what will be the best for all the members of our family.

And during all this, my mom died unexpectedlymomweb in her sleep. This crisis on top of the ongoing one put us underwater. There was so little keeping us going.

But I’m here now. Back. Hopefully able to talk to fans, and write books without dying from the pressure of even getting a few paragraphs down. And so, looking at all I missed talking about, to catch up the blog, here is what happened:

My trilogy for kids is being released by Spellbound River Press!  Jinnie Wishmaker has already been re-released. Marcus Mender will come out in the fall. And (now that I can finish it!) Elektra Chaos will be out next spring!

all-stacked-cover-3D-600width

I wroweb-Billionlaires-Ballet-by-Deanna-Royte another book this spring, a standalone romance called The Billionaire’s Ballet. It’s a fun story, inspired by Sabrina, and a light summer read.

My Forever series hit a ridiculous number of books sold. It’s just awe-inspiring to me to see these books go. You guys write me every day about how the story impacted you, and your notes truly kept me going. The response to the video on the series was also just tremendous, and we’re at something crazy like 800,000 views on Facebook. Thank you.

Forever-series-hardcovers

Here’s to being back in the world again, not just head down and slogging through immeasurable struggle.

Okay, this one’s gonna end in tears

In the summer of 2013, I had a problem. Kurt and I had just given up on getting pregnant and I had two surgeries in a row sealing the deal. No babies for us. Not biologically ours, anyway.

We started looking into adoption. We knew it was expensive. We were solid financially, but finding another $30k was gonna be tough.

I was still doing photography and had published a few books — Baby Dust was out, and did all right, but nothing that would pull in that kind of money. I wrote two romances but they flopped totally and went in the red.

I was fortunate at that time to make a couple really important friends. One was Mimi Strong, who I’d met on Kboards. Another was HM Ward, who had a similar background as me, photographer turned writer, and also lived in Texas.

Mimi had some big success with a billionaire series she had written and took me under her wing. We looked at my current fan base, all baby-loss moms, and where to go to expand. She told me new adult romances, set at college age, were the big thing.

Well, I had tried new adult already, twice, and those were flops. But she insisted I had done it wrong. So she coached me. Mimi made me sit down and come up with a college romance that hadn’t already been done but would have a very strong hook. Something only I could write.

Well, of course I knew what it had to be.

The character of Corabelle came first. Her baby had died. To make the story happen in college, she had to be a teen mother. Then Gavin, her boyfriend. He had to have something in his past that made him take off when the going got tough, even though he had loved Corabelle.

And I had to find a way to get them back together that wasn’t too hokey. And I had to keep them apart enough to make a book.

Into the fall we worked on the book, Mimi reading my work and telling me what I was doing wrong. When it came time for covers, Mimi was insistent I have the right look. We pored over images, trying to find something that wasn’t overused but still affordable since I had such a low budget (although the moment mine came out, the same image popped up everywhere.)

Here are the couples who didn’t make the cut (and I know what you’re thinking — no way any of those were Corabelle and Gavin!)

old-fi-cover-mocks

We did everything we could think of for the book release. Blog tours. Goodreads giveaways. NetGalley. A book trailer. Mimi was pushing it out to her fans.

And it was doing much better than my other books. Way better. But after a week, it just started to dive. If it was over now, that was it. It would earn out its costs, which were a lot more than my other books had been, but that was about it. Kurt and I talked about me going ahead and going back to work, even though I’d have to quit when we got the children. But at least to earn the fees.

Then I took a wild chance. I knew HM Ward just a little bit. We’d messaged some. She was huge at the time. Just huge. Her Arrangement series was topping every chart. And I boldly asked if she would share my book with her fans.

She didn’t respond for two days. I thought, okay, I’ve overstepped. No way would she do a favor like that for someone she barely knew. I was a little embarrassed to have asked.

I remember going to a football game that night. My daughter was a freshman and marching at halftime. My parents were in town too, to see her. While we waited for them to come out, I pulled out my phone to see how much farther my book had fallen in rankings.

And almost fell out of my seat.

I had sold 1000 copies that day.

I frantically checked my messages, and sure enough, HM had sent a message. “Posted it. Think I sold a couple hundred. :)”

This visibility set off a chain reaction. The book didn’t fall. I hit #4 on iBooks. Top 50 BN. I came breathlessly close to the top 100 on Amazon.

Over 700 readers signed up for my mail list to find out about my next book. Everyone was asking — what’s it going to be?

And a big chorus was insisting — Corabelle and Gavin’s story isn’t over.

I sat down immediately to write Forever Loved. This book did just as well as Forever Innocent. Sell through was something crazy like 90%.

We had done it.

Now, two years later, we’ve come to the last book. The business changed a lot, and college romances fell out of favor. But I wrote a few more. A set of the first three books hit the USA Today bestseller list last January, a huge accomplishment. I couldn’t be more pleased with how it all went.

Forever-series-hardcovers

I’d love to show you a picture of the two little boys who live with us now, but it’s not time yet. Just know that they are here, and that all you fans were instrumental in getting them here. And that putting this series to bed is like tucking in your child for the last time before they leave home. It’s hard.

But what a journey it’s been.

I will be writing a little more slowly now but plan to have a book out in May and a new series starting in the fall. You can stay in touch with me on the email list.

Enjoy the trailer. I have loved being on this road with all of you.

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Days that make the journey worth it

I take very little for granted these days.

I have two new boys now. They arrived last September. The first three months were really tough. Of course they would be. They’ve had a hard journey making their way to us. We only just turned the corner as a family a few weeks ago, in mid January, into something manageable.

So my own life was set aside for a while. That didn’t mean big things didn’t happen. This for one:

fight-for-her-usa-today-jan-2016

Fight for Her hit the USA Today bestseller list in January at #116. This was my sixth time on the list — second time for my JJ Knight pen name.

I’m so grateful.

I didn’t get a chance to talk about it much, as we were in crisis at home. As so often happens when family comes first, even the big personal accomplishments get pushed aside.

But we’re getting there.

I’m not sure when I’ll introduce our new family to the world. Their safety will come first, even after they are adopted and I am legally free to let everyone see their adorable faces. But know they are here, and my life is far more multi-faceted than it ever was before. I’m not quite as available online or at book signing events as I once was.

If you do want me, the best place is my private Facebook group for book fans. I try to stop by every couple of days to say hello. Click to hop over to it.

deanna-reader-retreat