After Winning a Publishing Package from BookLocker, This Burned Out Caregiver Wrote a Book in Less Than a Month! – by Debra Bilton

After Winning a Publishing Package from BookLocker, This Burned Out Caregiver Wrote a Book in Less Than a Month! – by Debra Bilton

Becoming a published author was an unusual journey for me. At the beginning of September 2018, my parents’ dog, Toby, died. I was his primary caregiver and he died alone with me in my room. I grieved his loss for only three weeks. The dog in my life before him, Farley, was a different story. He had died almost six years before this and I was still dealing with what I thought was grief for him.

I needed to understand why I grieved the loss of each differently, so I decided to write a book about pet loss. This led me to research about dying, death, pet loss, the grieving process, and bereavement models. During this time, I experienced some severe health problems, and was eventually diagnosed with dementia caregiver burnout. Later, my doctor convinced me to take a medical leave of absence from work due to cognitive losses caused by prolonged stress.

For years, I’d been receiving a weekly newsletter from the publisher I had planned to use, BookLocker. On the morning of October 24, 2019, I was up early, and read the trivia question from their WritersWeekly newsletter. I remembered the answer from the previous week’s newsletter, and sent in my answer. When I checked my emails later, I learned that I was the first person to answer the question correctly, and I had won a free book publishing package.

To claim the prize, I needed to submit a manuscript within a month. I was still in the research phase of the book I intended to write and I didn’t have a manuscript. I had never written a book before. At first, I thought it would not be possible. And then I thought, what have I got to lose? I decided to put the first book on hold, and write a new book from scratch.

The first two weeks were difficult because I was still experiencing some cognitive deficits. I persisted, and was unhappy with what I wrote. And, then it happened. The ideas, words, and phrases started to flow and connect in my mind. I wrote my first book in two weeks, and submitted it to Angela Hoy, the owner of BookLocker. I nervously waited to hear back from her.

I had no idea if what I wrote was up to their standards. Three days later, I received a message that my manuscript looked beautiful and they would love to publish my first book. I won the book publishing package on October 24th, submitted my manuscript on November 23rd, and was officially a published author on December 25th.

Knowing myself as I do, I would have procrastinated with writing a book. I lacked self-confidence in my writing skills, and I would have talked myself out of it. I was definitely out of my comfort zone. Fortunately, Angela Hoy and her staff were wonderful. They walked me through the entire publishing process. They were patient, supportive, and answered my questions. Publishing my first book was a positive and rewarding experience. I look forward to publishing my next book with BookLocker.

The advice I would give to aspiring writers is to just do it. Take the risk. What have you got to lose? Write because you need to write. If it feels like there’s a pressure inside you that is released when you put your words on paper, then you need to write!


It was a difficult year. Her doctor diagnosed her with dementia caregiver burnout, while she was also experiencing workplace stress. And Toby, an elderly dog with colitis, became lame, and then was dying. He died alone with her in her room.

Debra lost two beloved canine companions in less than six years. Farley was the first and Toby was the second. The way she grieved the death of each one was so different, that she needed to understand why. She immersed herself in researching pet loss, death and dying, and grief and the bereavement process. She gave herself two years to complete her research and then write a book about what she had learned.

Then, she unexpectedly won a book publishing package with the publisher she had originally intended to use. Being an early riser, she was the first person who correctly answered a trivia question. The catch? She had to submit a manuscript within a month to claim the prize. The problem? She didn’t have a manuscript, and she had never written a book before.

It would be a daunting task. Her first thought was, “There is no way I can do this.” Her second thought was, “What have I got to lose?” The worst-case scenario was she wouldn’t complete a manuscript and submit it by the deadline.

With her original book idea a year off from completion, she put it on the back burner and started a new book. She was up for the challenge and ready to do this. She hit the ground running at a snail’s pace. She was still dealing with some cognitive deficits, caused by prolonged stress that affected her brain functioning.

For the first two weeks, she wrote nothing of use. This was not because of a lack of trying. She couldn’t pull things together in her mind. There was no outline, and her thoughts and ideas were fragmented. And then two weeks into writing, early on a Friday evening, her creative brain kicked in.

The memories of her relationship with each dog, and the experiences they shared flooded her mind. Her pen couldn’t write fast enough to record her thoughts and feelings. She wrote about what each dog had taught her through the different stages of their lives, and how she learned to read their behavior and body language.

She wrote of their lives and their deaths, and how she grieved each. She applied the new knowledge and understanding she gained from her research to her own experiences. She learned there were different griefs she had experienced with the loss of each pet. In this book, she also shares some things she found that helped her to move through the grieving process.

This is Debra’s first published book. It is short, parsimonious, and jam-packed with as much detail as she could muster in two weeks. It’s the book she never intended to write, and the one she was meant to write.


Debra Bilton has had pets in her life since childhood. Each one has taught her something about herself and the mysteries of life and death. She has degrees in psychology and education and looks at the world through the eyes of a martial artist and a Buddhist. For more information, see: Two Dogs, Two Griefs

This book is available from the publisher,, as well as from Amazon,, and many other stores. If purchasing from BookLocker, use this discount code when checking out to get 10% off: Backstory

How do authors get their ideas for books? And, at what point in their lives did these creative individuals decide they wanted to be authors??  READ MORE BOOK BACKSTORIES AND AUTHOR BACKSTORIES RIGHT HERE!






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One Response to "After Winning a Publishing Package from BookLocker, This Burned Out Caregiver Wrote a Book in Less Than a Month! – by Debra Bilton"

  1. Pamela Allegretto  May 20, 2020 at 3:45 pm

    Congratulations on winning the publishing package and rising to the challenge. This sounds like a fascinating read. Best wishes!