Sixteen years ago, I was going in for minor surgery, and it occurred to me to wonder what would happen if I didn’t come out of it. General anesthesia carries that risk. The funny thing is that I didn’t regret not marrying or not having kids. As I filled out pre-op forms, I realized that if I died, what I’d regret most at that last moment was that I’d never written a book.
I’m not the only one who has thought this way. A friend told me that when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the mid-2000s, the first thought in her brain was, “But I never wrote my book!” (Spoiler alert: she beat cancer, and she’s working on that book.)
It took a long time to write my book. I mean, a long time. I started slowly, with fan fiction. I moved on to short stories that I submitted to contests and journals. Some stories won or placed in contests, and some sold. Slowly, ever so slowly, I accumulated a modest list of publication credits.
I’d had an idea for something I thought could be big enough to be a book. As I drafted and redrafted, I realized I was skipping an enormous part of the story. So I went back, and I worked on the missing piece, and it turned into State v. Claus.
I did everything I thought I was supposed to. I took classes and learned to write queries in which I begged an agent to look at my book. At the risk of sounding immodest, I felt confident that the book was good, a belief that was bolstered when I submitted it to the Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Competition and it finished as a finalist in that competition.
But somehow, when it came to the traditional publishing journey, I couldn’t get past square one. Finally, one agent told me frankly that the issue wasn’t the writing, but the business aspects, namely the length and the seasonal aspect. That was when I realized that the path to my dream was going to travel through a different part of the publishing landscape than I’d expected.
So I did the research, and I spent the money, and I made the mistakes. With the help of some wonderful, uplifting people, my book and I made our way through the wilderness to the moment when it was at least potentially in front of the world as an e-book.
I know e-books are real books. I know there are people who only read on screens—their phones, their e-readers, their tablets, their laptops, their desktops. But some of us are old-school, and we like paper. We like holding a physical book in our hands. So even though I initially published State v. Claus on October 30, and even though I uploaded the paperback interior and cover was November 5, as far as I’m concerned, today is my book’s true Publication Day.
Because today, I held my book in my hand.
I worried, of course. I worried that the cover wouldn’t be right. I worried that it would take too long to get the proof copy I’d ordered. I worried that I’d open it and spot a typo. (I did.)
Is it exactly as I’d like? Not exactly, but pretty damned close. If I could, I might tweak the cover so it was slightly lighter in color, more like the thumbnails online. On the other hand, it still looks lovely. More importantly, I have no idea what would be involved in adjusting the color and how long it would take. Considering that the holidays are fast approaching and the printing companies are already experiencing delays, the slight tweak doesn’t feel worthwhile.
Even so, my book exists. The physical copy is real. It’s on my shelf alongside my audiobook (on MP3) and various journals containing my stories. My works, in print. And my book, which I wrote, among them.
I’m sixty years old, and the dream of my lifetime has come true.
I wrote a book.