by Timothy Pike
It’s early in the morning, and we’re in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, where author Dacia M. Arnold is sitting at her writing desk. But she’s not writing—she’s gazing out the large window that overlooks her backyard, gathering her thoughts, and imagining what her characters might be doing right now. Slowly, she turns her attention back to her computer screen. A sip of coffee. A glance at the clock—5 am. Just enough time to get a head start on her next chapter before the household begins to stir, and controlled chaos takes over.
This is where Apparent Power, Dacia’s first full-length novel, was born. The award-winning book is about a young mother who, after an apocalyptic event causes power grids to go dark and planes to fall out of the sky, suddenly becomes one of the only people alive with the potential to save the world. Valerie Russell, the protagonist, is a lot like most of the other characters Dacia has created, who are “otherwise normal people with extraordinary abilities.”
Dacia has thought a lot about saving the world. It was probably with this in mind—and the desire to follow in her father’s “bootsteps”—that she joined the U.S. Army at age 19. Even today, she sometimes wonders if she could have saved the world at that age, especially given her military training. “I quickly answered that question with a NO,” she tells me. Back in those days, she says, “I was an idiot.”
But fast forward to today. This mom, author, and self-described “Superwoman” is now doing it all: raising a family, promoting two books while writing another, and keeping us apprised of her hectic day-to-day life via her blog.
Superwoman indeed. In her first deployment to Iraq as an Army combat medic, Dacia braved the heart-pounding intensity of the “Baghdad ER,” racing against the clock to save the lives of wounded soldiers as they were carried in, day and night, on stretchers. While bombs fell all around, Dacia and her team worked with precision and urgency to make sure these patients would live to see their families again. Deployed a second time, she found herself in charge of the busiest outpatient clinic in southern Iraq. So many worlds saved, but as far as Dacia was concerned, it was all in a day’s work.
Now, years later and many thousands of miles away from the battlefield, she’s occasionally called upon to rescue her two kids from the scrapes and bruises that kids tend to get. But in her thinking, that’s exactly why she writes. “I write so that I can stay home to raise my kids,” she says. “My two little people are my muse and purpose.” And she’s in the perfect line of work, because that lifestyle is entirely possible when you’re a full-time novelist. And it also helps when your book is poised to become a bestseller.
Stephen King was one of Dacia’s earliest influences. Then, early in her military career, books from Nora Roberts and Dean Koontz found their way onto her reading list. But it was around the time that Veronica Roth’s dystopian science fiction novel, Divergent, was rising in popularity, that Dacia got an idea: All these fantastic books are being made into movies, she thought, but they’re all aimed at the young adult market. How about a series for adults, with a mother as the protagonist?
And when she couldn’t find what she was looking for, she decided to write it herself.
See? Dacia knows what the world needs.
So she got to work. At first, she didn’t know how it would turn out, but kept at it anyway. “I got better by writing every day and sharing my writing with others,” she says. Her best advice for writers of any level? “Practice, practice, practice.”
But even with the best of intentions—which for Dacia means writing every morning—sometimes energy fades, writer’s block hits, or distractions take over. “I do get in ruts when I write,” says Dacia, adding that any given rut could last for weeks, with inspiration drying up all the while, the motivation to write withering away. “In these moments, I take a step back from the project.”
Another trick that worked was joining a writing challenge—in this case, the semiannual 10K Novel Writing Challenge at ChapterBuzz. It was a good decision, because she gained a slew of new Fans, and won an award for her efforts.
The 10K Challenge, she says, “really helped me add content to a work that had stalled. I am incredibly competitive—with myself—so ChapterBuzz let me challenge myself, as well as cheer on fellow writers. I also took critiques from those with more experience, and applied their suggestions.”
It worked. ChapterBuzz readers were immediately drawn into her unfolding story, and as her Fan count steadily ticked upward, her novel-in-progress soon hit #1 on the ChapterBuzz Charts, and there it remained for the better part of the year.
But Dacia didn’t stop there. She picked up on some of the secrets of talented, established authors, and applied them to her own work. She faithfully educated herself on the craft of writing, and mastered the use of as many literary elements as she could. She pitched her work to agents and publishers, held live Q & A sessions on Facebook, and kept adding new material for her ChapterBuzz Fans to read.
You may be surprised to hear that for all her success, Dacia still admits to occasional feelings of self-doubt. “I do have days where I question if I’m any good and if any of this will go anywhere, like I’m throwing a grain of sand into a vacuum,” she says. “But then I write something amazing and bring myself out of it.”
It seems to me Dacia is only at the beginning of a long, prolific career, and I’m certain she’ll have bragging rights to many more accomplishments. I’m also certain she’ll save the world at some point, but in the meantime, she’s already made a big difference in the worlds of so many.
“As long as people enjoy reading my work,” she promises, “I will keep writing.”
And enjoying it they are. If you haven’t already, be sure to become her Fan on ChapterBuzz, and check out some of her other work.
With that, I’ll let Dacia get back to the business of saving the world.
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