I couldn't figure out what to wear last Saturday, so in time-honored fashion, I spread a bunch of things out on the bed and tried to keep the dogs from rolling in them. After a while, I took the one thing they wanted to roll and dig in the most, and was quite pleased with the result.
Dogs: not only great for depression, but also fabulous for fashion decisions.
I needed some time off from eighteen-hour revision days, so my writing partner said, “Lacey. Let’s go to Lacey.” What the hell is in Lacey, you ask? LOTS OF STUFF.
For example, there’s Shipwreck Beads. A warehouse. Of beads and beading supplies. Lest you think, well, that’s not so amazing, let me just reiterate: a WAREHOUSE. Bigger than my own domicile. In fact, multiple domiciles stacked on top of each other, because there were two floors. (We did not head upstairs, the bottom floor was more than enough for multiple hours of browsing.) I’m glad we made a circuit once, looking over everything, and then decided on purchases, because if we’d taken a cart (yes, they have CARTS, for BEADS) neither of us would have gotten out with any money left at all.
I sent that picture to the kids, and the Little Prince responded with, “You’re hitting the right…beads!”
Punning is apparently in his genetic code.
Anyway, once our endurance was exhausted there we broke for lunch and found the continent’s sketchiest Mexican restaurant right next to a biker garage. (The number of Harleys in the shared parking lot was approaching critical mass.) We also found a much less sketchy restaurant, and if I could ever drink tequila that would have been the place for it.
*sigh* I can’t drink at all anymore, but it’s nice to contemplate, I guess.
“I just wanted to see your eyes out on sticks,” my writing partner said, and they were. That particular Cabela’s is warehouse-sized too, but an order of magnitude larger than Shipwreck. And it was packed, both with goods and with people. You could do a lot worse than settle on one of the benches there and people-watch, listening for dialogue snippets. (All things feed the work.)
In the middle of the vast space was a two-story fake hill covered with taxidermy animals. Yes, you read that right.
What I didn’t take a picture of, though I should have, is the hollowed-out interior of the hill, where the aquariums are. Sturgeon, trout both rainbow and speckled, pike–and big fish, too, just swimming around. Oh, and catfish. Boy howdy, were there ever catfish. I’m pretty sure that when the poor things get large enough they’re hauled out and consumed by the employees. There was even a polar bear (shot in 1970, according to the placard) and–are you ready?–a whole zebra, which was not on the fake hill but on a platform jutting out from the mezzanine.
We did not see a huge chunk of pink camo, which my writing partner assures me is otherwise a staple of the place. (She was a bit put out by this, to tell the truth.) But I scored some good hoodies for a fair price, which is what I wanted out of the place. Now, along with new jeans, I’m totally ready for winter. Which is good, because today began with grey skies and glorious rain, finally.
The weirdest thing about Cabela’s was in the loo. There was a biohazard sharps container on the wall, and it was pretty full. We figured there’s probably a lot of diabetes in their customer base, because it had a bunch of blood sugar testing strips among the insulin needles.
Cabela’s is also where my writing partner found a stuffed wolverine while I was writing Weasel Boy. I had to go by and say hello.
We returned home with plenty of crafting materials, a squeaky rabbit toy for Sir Boxnoggin, a smoked rawhide bone for Miss B (which she is guarding assiduously while I type this) and various other odds and ends. It was good to get out of the bloody revisions for a little bit, all the characters were starting to blur together and I needed something other than chewing the bones of an epic fantasy for a few hours. And now, of course, along with proper hoodies I’ll live in come winter I have enough earring material for MONTHS.
Today, of course, it’s back to the grind of revision–taking each sentence, turning it upside down, shaking it, using a scalpel to pare it down to bone. I’ll work better for having had a brief break, and I might even get this bloody revision done. I’m so far in the weeds I can’t even think about what it will feel like to have this book off my plate, and it irks me every time I look at my task list.
So that was my weekend, my hoopy froods. I hope yours was similarly enchanting and terrifying.
Generally, when you finish a zero, it is. Revisions might be hell, the publication process frustrating, but generally the worst, most damaging, draining, and difficult work, is behind me.
That was not so this time.
There are various bad-luck things that can strike during the publication process, and in my thirteen-plus years in the industry, I’ve seen pretty much all of them. “Orphaned” when your editor moves to a new house? Been there. Payment snafus? Oh, yeah. Copyeditor decides they want to rewrite instead of, well, copyediting? Yep. Issues with the proof pass? Oh, yeah, we’ve done that. On, and on, and on. Normally a book will only have one or at most two big problems during the pub process.
Afterwar, being an overachiever, had them ALL. The only boxes it didn’t check on the Pub Problem Bingo Card were “revenge editing”1 and “cover woes”2. Orphaned twice, under time-crunches for everything, Muphy’s Law laughing every time I thought “this shouldn’t be a problem, we’ve done this for ten fucking years together, it’s gonna be fine…”, and then there was the CE and afterward the proof pass and I ended up calling my agent in tears, saying, “THEY CAN HAVE THE MONEY, JUST GIVE ME THE BOOK BACK. I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE.”
My agent managed to talk me down from the ledge each time, because for over a decade I’ve been able to rely upon her judgment when she tells me I’m overreacting. This time, she said, “You’re not overreacting. This looks really bad from your point of view, and it’s hella stressful, but it’s not personal. It’s things that are out of everyone’s control, including yours.” Just having that validation made me more inclined to work through the problems. And each new editor I was handed to was someone I knew and trusted, since I’ve been with that publisher for so long.
To be absolutely fair, even though everything went wrong at every step of the process, the other people involved–art department, head publisher, every editor, the long-suffering production folks who, I’m sure, more than once wanted to strangle me–hit home runs and pulled out a miracle every time. It got so bad that whenever I saw a New York area code pop up on my phone or an email from agent or publisher in my inbox I almost had a panic attack thinking “what the fuck next?“
Then, once the proof disasters had been fixed and the my nerves were starting to regrow a protective sheath, a book died on me. Flat-out died. I spent months trying to resurrect it, and heaving into my office wastebasket each time I tried to work on it. That’s only happened once before3 and eventually I was able to resurrect that book; I hold out no hope it will happen a second time.
In short, everything that could go wrong did, and I still feel a strange flutter every time I see Afterwar‘s cover. It’s a goddamn good thing it wasn’t my first experience with publishing, because I would have left the industry and never looked back. I am super-grateful that at least I had enough experience to know the difficulties were not normal, just bad luck.
I joked more than once that if the printers didn’t burn and sink into a marsh, or if the entire production run didn’t sink into the sea during shipment, I would count it a win.
It wasn’t really a joke.
Anyway, release day came, and crushing, malignant stress retreated for a day or two. I was too busy with my usual round of release day rituals.
And then, as I knew would happen inevitably, the hate mail began to arrive.
To be continued…
ETA: You know, I was going to talk about the hatemail, but it makes me tired. I’ll continue at some other time.
I’m not a Bloody Mary person. I think vodka belongs either straight or in cranberry juice, with a slight but significant exception for fresh orange juice. But–useless to deny it–there is a certain charm to getting all your brunch veggies in this form…
I just need a few days where I don’t physically speak to anyone other than the kids. Oh, and the dogs. I mean, I do have to go to Goodwill to drop off a huge bag of the Princess’s old clothes and a bunch of stuffed animals the kids don’t want anymore, but that won’t take long. I just…have been very social lately, and I need to lock myself in my office and lunge for the end of Atlanta Bound. It’ll take some time to finish, but I can feel the fourth and final season of Roadtrip Z gathering steam for the race downhill to the end. Unfortunately, we still need a few deaths, at least one zombie bite, the death of a vehicle, and a run-in with some more not-very-nice survivors before we get to Atlanta, let alone the end.
It will be nice to get to the natural resting-place for the story. Roadtrip Z is one of the longer projects I’ve ever attempted, and there’s a certain amount of “Jesus Christ, why won’t this story just DIE?” going on. It’s a step above a traditional series in complexity, mostly because I have the hard deadline of a chapter each week. Because the working timeline is so compressed, I feel like it’s ONE HUGE 200K BOOK instead of four 50-60K books, and the perception of effort is waaaaay different. I don’t have the cooling-off and incubation period between seasons that I generally have between novels in a regular series. Which means everything’s fresh in my head for a longer period, but it also takes up braincycles I could use for things like, I don’t know, showers and remembering to eat? Maybe?
I guess my work’s cut out for me. Before that, though, there’s a run and some ebook formatting to get through.
Last week was full of Socializing In Person; now I need at least two weeks of closing my office door and not really talking to anyone in meatspace unless they’re my kids or writing partner. Online socializing is fine, because I can control my interaction speed and shut down if I get overwhelmed. Right now I’m in a particular sort of introvert hell, twitching while my energy juices replenish. I hope the poor person on duty at Goodwill doesn’t mind me simply grunting “No receipt, thanks,” and basically running away.
On the bright side, spring cleaning means lots of fresh new space downstairs. If more bookcases become necessary (please, dear gods, let it not be necessary) at least there will be space to shoehorn them in.
So. The second jolt of coffee has been downed, Odd Trundles is snoring contentedly, Miss B is eyeing my running clothes and pointing her nose down the hall, snugged across the office door so I can’t possibly attempt to leave without her, and I’ve a little formatting to poke at before I go run as if zombies are chasing me instead of my characters.
I was at the Powell’s Authorfest last night, along with a host of other fantastic authors. There were a lot of people, and quite a few of them told me they liked Cormorant Run. Which was great to hear–it’s one of the books I like best, but it seems reviews have been mixed.
Anyway, driving home in the dark, my brain in that strange liminal place of juggling time, speed, distance, and the current stories I’m working on, I felt my life loop over and catch on another peg. I’ve done a lot of driving or wandering at night with my head full of stories, trying to shake out pieces or fit them together. I got out of the habit when the kids were younger–you can’t leave your house empty except for sleeping children, not unless it’s an emergency. I realized how much I missed being out at night.
I suppose I could go out walking with my camera after dark again now, since the kids are well into their teens. Miss B, of course, would ache and pine to go along. At the same time…I love being out at night, it’s my preferred time, but I’ve just arrived at the point where I can sleep reliably. A small but significant proportion of my used-to-be-usual insomnia is the fact that I am a night owl; my internal rhythm is set to rise and resurrect about noon, get to work around 2pm, go until 11pm-midnight, wind down, and go to bed about 2am. Given my druthers, that’s how my entire life would be arranged.
But it’s a daywalker’s world, especially if you have children who are Day People. School means getting up when daywalkers do, consequently I’ve been doing it for years. Now the kids are largely capable of getting up on their own, but shifting the dogs’ schedule would entail a lot of moaning and groaning. And I am on call while the kids are out of the house–just because they’re not home doesn’t mean I’m allowed to sign off.
So, obeying the schedule my body wants would require shifting the dogs’ schedule, possibly being out of commission during a Grown(ish) Child’s emergency, and moving my meds schedule. That last is the least worrisome of the three. I can’t accept the thought of being out of commission while one of my spawn needs me, no matter if one of them is technically old enough to smoke and go to war. (Not that she’ll do either, she reminds me, thank you very much Mum.)
I guess I’ll impersonate a daywalker for a little while longer. Maybe until the Little Prince is out of school and settled on his trajectory. At least I can consciously decide to do so, instead of feeling trapped by circumstance.
Driving at night and feeling that internal catch, the sense of a life decision being reached or coming back to a particular angle on the spiral of one’s current incarnation, is precious. So is arriving home, pulling into the garage, and having Grown(ish) Children and dogs clustering at the door because they missed you and they’re glad you’re home. Hugs and the high-speed downloading of what happened at work or while I was gone, cold damp noses pressed against my knee and wiggling hind ends, grins and “I put the stuff for your dinner right next to the stove, Mum” all add up to another soft, beautiful realization.
Sometimes, I think, I long to go out at night just to come home, now that I have a safe warm nest to return to.