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Beside Still Water | 2010 | Harm None

08.26.10 4:11 p.m.

Writing is a dog's life, but the only life worth living.  

-Gustave Flaubert


Paperback Writer

She sent me this picture to show how excited she was that I would be published.

In the prior forty-eight hours, I had gotten three form letter rejections from agents and publishers. They were sure my book was wonderful, but it wasn't for them. I wondered if this was how editors break up with romantic partners, the standard "it's not you, it's me" they mail out a dozen times a day with no real explanations to prove their theses.

My eye catches the words "pleased to offer you a contract" while skipping between windows and I think it is just a fanciful trick, that my mind has omitted the word "not". I click back and am stunned for a moment at the oddness of not being rejected.

In the subsequent days, I've had the opportunity/necessity to remove all manageable traces of previous iterations of my novel from the internet (in accordance to one of the subclauses of the contract; there can be no free digital copies) so I can say with some authority that I have been working on my book since 2003. Seven years of building and breaking down to rebuild, corrupted files, writing in between jobs, writing long into the night and then erasing half of it in the morning once my head cleared. At one point, this novel was one hundred and sixty-five thousand words fatter than the one that will be published in April. I'm sure there are some phrases from the original that remain in the final version (and I use that term loosely, aware that the publisher is likely going to appoint some editor to further preen my prose), but they are few. Half the characters are renamed. One went from a Titan to an amnesiac drug dealer with a preternatural pet. The end shifted so I could resurrect a character who needed to live (even if you have read the book - and you are currently in the extreme minority - it isn't actually who you think). My Wiccan gothling Roselyn injected herself much more than I ever intended, such that she earned herself more of the spotlight in a sequel - which I now have cause to finish editing so it, too, can be published.

Melanie is more excited than I am and has bragged that the Trophy Spouse mantle has shifted onto my shoulders now that she can tack "the published author" onto "boyfriend". While she had faith in my writing - at least to the extent that she ripped anything false to shreds and convinced me that the pruning process was essential - it is nice to have external validation. Aside from being a supportive girlfriend, I am not certain why she is as happy as she is. After perusing the site to see what caliber of cover they would assign me (I get to have no say in that choice), she acknowledged that the company puts its name to much rubbish, but sees my value to them, as my stories could be rubbish but rise above. I don't pretend I am in the business of writing the Great American Novel, only entertaining but involved fantasy.

Jacki, too, was excited and suggested she help me arrange readings, though I am uncertain as to whether there are any bits of my book that would hold up to the reading aloud process. Merrill, one of Daniel and Hannah's friends and my Facebook friend (and who I sent a copy of my book), offered herself up as the narrator should it be turned into an audiobook. Even Melissa called to confirm that this was a legitimate deal, that I would actually be getting paid. My dream is no longer contained wholly in me.

As far as I see, being a published author doesn't change much for me, save that I have to rededicate myself to writing now that there is an audience who will reward my efforts. I am working completely on royalties - the company is too small or prudent to give advances - and I am keenly aware I won't be seeing any of those for another year at the absolute most optimistic. I still will have to be frugal and humble (though I think those qualities are now ingrained in me from having bank balances that could not allow me to buy a piece of fruit). In a few weeks, I will return to eleven hour days trying to keep inner-city kids from rioting/ignorance.

Objectively, I have achieved one of my goals in life, but I can only think about the next goal. There is no time to waste being proud of myself.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job.

last watched: Revenge of the Nerds
reading: Dust
listening: Kate Nash

Beside Still Water | 2010 | Harm None

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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