Sometimes a thing happens, and it’s a really exciting thing, and all you want to do is smash people’s faces in it cream-pie-style because your really exciting thing is delicious and should be smeared everywhere.
Only, really exciting things often require patience and silence–
…and that’s where I’m going to stop the pie metaphor because instead of smashing the pie it has to be sat-on, and NETHER REGIONS + CREAM are sadly not directly related to my first book contract (though the book is, on occasion, quite sexy).
I signed my first book contract with Chromatic Press in March. Just two months ago. That moment made me grin wide and toothful, and it’s quite possible I punched the air and gave a ghost a nosebleed. (Did you know that uber-concentrated excitement can give you ectoplastmic superpowers?) But there’s a before and after attached to that moment. A story:
Last fall, I discovered Chromatic Press, and their multimedia magazine, Sparkler Monthly. In Sparkler’s words, they aim ‘to be a platform for engrossing, entertaining stories that aren’t heard enough in mainstream media,’ with a focus on the Female Gaze. I’ve only just begun to dig into the work they’re publishing, but it’s like good chocolate: habit-forming, and quality. My favorites thus far are Awake, an (agonizingly addictive) audio story about a generation ship, its human crew, and a healthy-dose of murder-made mayhem. If you like the BBC’s radio dramatization of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but want something more subtle and nerve-wracking, this is for you. I also enjoyed Before you Go, a sweetly brief comic about two girls falling in love in the rain, and am highly anticipating my soon-to-be read of Dusk in Kalevia.
When I heard Chromatic had put out an unsolicited call for novel submissions, I knew I’d found the perfect home for the book I was working on (a character-driven SF novel about an anorexic, aromantic drummer and his blood-hungry fire-elemental roommate). So I kicked myself in the ass, polished up my submission materials, and sent them off.
While anticipating (what I thought would be) my inevitable rejection, I fantasized. A lot. At the time, I had another (shorter and completely unrelated) piece under consideration with Shimmer –the piece was “The Seaweed and the Wormhole” and, to my dizzying elation, eventually accepted. With that good news lashed to my belt (for fear it was all LIES), I’d sometimes think giddily to myself, what if my book got picked up too?! Only probably with more exclamation points. Because I knew how unlikely it would be for BOTH to be accepted.
And yet, in September, I received an email. It was one of those nebulous emails writers occasionally get, where you can’t tell from the subject line whether you’ve been accepted, or gut-punched out of the running. I opened the message and found that my fate was neither: I’d been cryogenically frozen; in-betweened. It wasn’t bad news, it wasn’t good–it was promising. Very, very promising.
Basically, Lianne (Lianne, who is now my editor, yay!) said she liked what I’d sent. A lot. But also that it was a mess. What followed was a (wonderfully) giant critique detailing everything that was killing the book–and an offer: revise your outline, polish up the first two chapters, get it back to us in three weeks, and we’ll reconsider your submission. Terrifying, because I knew cleaning up a mess that size was on par with giving a troll a bath. But validating, too, because if she’d spent that much time with my submission, that much time writing her reply, I must have done something right. I was also a little thrilled and in-agony, because holy hel-hounds, my book MY BOOK was kind-of-almost on the brink of getting published.
I revised. Cut. Toned and stream-lined. Did the writerly equivalent of plyometrics for books.
And then I waited.
Thanksgiving day dawned. The apartment was cleaned. Food was made in blasphemously modest quantities. After a turkey-less feast (chicken for the carnivores, salad and candied walnuts and cheese for me) eaten cross-legged around our coffee table, in the company of Cavan’s fellow grad students, I checked the special gmail account I reserve for writing and publishing. In my inbox, I found an email from Lianne–a message full of puppies and rainclouds and metalheads making snarly-faces, aka my kind of happiness. One of my favorite bits of bliss was this beautiful string of words:
We’d like to offer you a contract.
A two and a half hour Skype conversation followed, and then a number of months–and then came the arrival of my legal document. I read it, had my workshop instructor Richard Fifield (who just sold his first novel, The Flood Girls, to Simon & Schuster!) read it, after which I read it again, and asked for clarification (many times over). Clarification secured, I fretted for a moment or two, and then I signed.
YES. I signed it, my first book contract, for SKYGLASS, this novel of mayhem and wonder, and Peep-obsessed vocalists (and yes, I DO mean those sparkly chicken-shaped marshmallows. Somehow they manage to survive the post-apocalyptic earth of my story…are you really that surprised?).
As for the whole I-Signed-My-First-Book-Contract-And-Kinda-Forgot-To-Mention-It, well…I had to keep silent about the contract before it had been signed, obviously. And then I signed it, but I’d gotten used to the silence, and then things (editing, writing, writing, writing + grad school apps and the day job) just…piled up, and–as exciting as a book contract is–humans are adaptable. Even realizing my lifelong dream was strangely easier than I expected (except for the all-too-often moments of paranoia, where I’m sure all my good luck is going skedaddle itself right out my existence). In the end, while this super-exciting thing is truly and utterly SUPER-EXCITING–and also a huge gift of fortune and privilege–it took hard work to get here, and will continue to always be hard work. Writing is my existence; I love it, but sometimes it’s just my air and lungs.
In a soon-to-come post, I’ll talk about how the publication of SKYGLASS will differ from your typical book (because of serialization! and Skyglass’ excellent illustrator). Till next time, though, behave, eat chocolate, plant a tree–and if the sky’s deep and starry enough, don’t forget to wish for benign alien abduction.
*If you begin with a tangent, is it really a tangent? Are they chronologically dependent? Tangents imply the existence of a coherent point, and then the act of branching. And yet, you can grow a tree from a branch…