Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Galleys!


I got my galleys (the almost-complete version of the book that is given to reviewers a few months early so their reviews can coincide with the publication date—basically the book's dress rehearsal) last week.

I was walking through the living room on Wednesday afternoon when I glanced out the window and saw the UPS truck parked across the street. I hadn't ordered anything. I did not consider that maybe one of the neighbors had ordered something. 

I said, "Barclay..." and drifted to the door just as the bell rang. I couldn't feel my fingers. The hair on my head was standing straight up in the air. I have very long hair. Just picture it.

By the time I opened the door, the UPS guy was already walking away, having done his job. I imagined yelling all kinds of bizarre things after him and worried that, in that moment, when I had so little control over my fingers and hair and feet, that I might.

"HEY! THIS BOX CONTAINS AND SIGNIFIES THE CULMINATION OF ALL OF MY DREAMS SINCE AGE SIX I HOPE YOU WERE GENTLE WITH IT."

Instead, I silently picked up the box and brought it into the house. And then I was very calm. Like everything inside me that was crashing waves was now a still pond with not one living thing in it. Like I was sleepwalking.

Sullivan wanted to know what was in the box. Of course he did.

"My books," I said calmly. I've seen many videos on Instagram of authors receiving their first book shipment. There's usually lots of squealing. Tears, often. I wondered vaguely if I should shriek a little. I thought that I should ask Barclay to take a picture of my face when I opened the box, but then I immediately forgot the thought. It just floated out of my head.

"You ordered books?!" Sullivan yelled. He loves when I order books because they usually come in bubble wrap (what's up with that, anyway? Books aren't breakable).

"No," I said, smiling. So calm. "These are my books. I wrote them. It."

I set the box on the floor and waited, as though I thought it might open itself. It failed to do so.

Sully ran to get scissors. (He did not run once he had the scissors. Don't worry.) He helped me open the box and dig through the paper, so it went faster than I wanted it to. I felt surprised, realizing that I wanted it to go slower, that even though I'd been eagerly anticipating this moment for months, I now didn't want it to happen yet.

That was unexpected.

But, I mean, props to my subconscious. After all, the anticipation of something good is almost always better than the actual good thing. The moment right before the fulfillment of a dream or longing is so rare and fleeting and beautiful. I knew, without knowing, that I should savor it.

So I peeled back the layers of paper slowly, taking little breaths, and then Sully pulled the first book up, like pulling a carrot out of the ground. He was so excited, and that was the next surprise: that seeing him holding the book and being so excited about it was better than me holding the book and being excited about it.

To both my amazement and his, he pulled another out, and then another, and another, handing them to me one by one. 

I stared at them in wonderment. "Well, isn't that something," I said. It was a dorky thing to say, but I said it.

Sullivan, still unearthing the last few books one by one, paused. "No, it's not. It's not anything," he said. Then, "Well. It is a book. Can I have this one?"

I told him that, no, I couldn't keep these; these were for giving away.

"You can give this one away to me, then," he said, unconcerned, and he ran off to his bedroom to add it to his bookshelf. (I snuck into his room later and stole it back. He came to me within fifteen minutes, looking very disappointed, and said, "Mo-om. Did you take my book? It's not on my shelf."
We've gone back and forth on this a few times; he is very observant. I am not winning.)

Physical ARCs are exciting for a lot of reasons, but the main ones for me have nothing to do with marketing or exposure or trade reviews: if your book gets ARCs, you get to hold it in your hands a few months earlier than you would've otherwise. You get to put it on your bookcase, see how it gets along with your other books. You get to carry it around in your purse for a few days—not to show people, just to have it there with you. You get to keep it by your computer while you write your next book, to remind you where you're going and how great it feels to get there. 

And then, you get to see how it looks in other people's hands. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

The ABCs of 2018

Welp. The planet and everyone on it lasted another year, which is, frankly, astounding to me at this point. (I have never claimed to be an optimist.) Happy last day of 2018, everyone. Let's see how far we can make it into 2019!

So here's my 2018 alphabet. I love doing this every year; my friend Courtney got me into it. I don't expect anyone to read mine—it's super long—but you should do one yourself. It's fun, both to do now and to look back on later.
(20172016)


a - A few of the things I did anywhere from more than twice to every single week: walked around the lake and to the park, hung out at friends' houses, taco night at The Lobby with Shlee, early morning writing sessions at the Bean, trips to the museums and art gallery, made elaborate Sunday brunches with Barclay.

b - Built a desk and some bookshelves in our bedroom—can't have too many desks, can't have too many bookshelves. Made a desk for Sully in his bedroom too (he was so thrilled; he said, "OH I GET MY OWN THUMB TACK BOARD!" and, "Um, my desk needs a plant like yours has. In a real vase.")

c - Car trips: To Erin's house with Kate, to Frontier to visit my family a couple of times, lots of trips out of town to see Scarlett's parents, to Saskatoon for a cousin's wedding and to Medicine Hat for another cousin's wedding. No flying again this year (come on, 2019).

d - Drove also to Moose Jaw to attend the Saskatchewan Festival of Words with Hannah.

e - Editing. In 2018 alone, I closely edited V&V (counts on fingers) seven, maybe eight times. Editing with a publisher is a whole new ball game—editorial letters! Copy edits! Proofreads! Style sheets! It's like taking a writing class every time you do a round, which is excellent.

f - Film agent. We got an amazing film agent attached to V&V, and maybe nothing will come of it but it was really fun to start brainstorming actresses and daydreaming about sending my baby to Hollywood.

g - Gardened! Or, tried. And, subsequently, failed miserably. I killed everything in the yard, you guys. Everything. Even the grass died.

h - Had our car broken into twice—the second time was yesterday morning. I got up at 4:30 am to take a friend to the airport and was, like, super overjoyed to discover that the car had been trashed only moments earlier (there were fresh footprints in the falling snow) (I was so sleepy and so mad I was tempted to follow those footprints and give a good lecture to somebody).

I - I sold an article to Freelance Magazine (the Sask Writers' Guild's quarterly), to be published in 2019. It'll be my first publication in a physical magazine, which is very fun.

j - Just was such a bad book club member. (Last year's J was 'joined a book club.') I don't think I read even one of the book club books this year. Am I even still in the book club? I joined another one, too, and haven't been to a single meeting.

k - Kaeli, my good friend, started teaching Intro to Bullet Journalling classes at the Paper Umbrella and I went to one. She taught me a lot this year about how great it feels to support your friends in their endeavors, and how great it feels when they support you back.

l - Lake Union Publishing offered me a two-book book deal in January.

m - Music, live! This year I saw Jack White, Tokyo Police Club, a Beatles tribute band, Robyn Koester, Nazareth, Bruce Cockburn, Shakey Graves, Walk Off the Earth, Matt Holubowski, Neko Case, the Arkells, the Regina Symphony Orchestra, Big Wreck, Delhi 2 Dublin, Begonia, Close Talker, and Bears in Hazenmore. Went to Swampfest, Winterruption, and Folk Fest.

n - Neglected a lot of housework this year. It's like, WHEN, you know?

o - Onions, red. This year, I got super into red onions. I used to only buy white onions, but I haven't purchased a white onion in months. Crazy, isn't it? Red onions.

p - Peregrine Landscape Construction: the name of Barclay's new business that he started in August of this year. I'm so excited for him and proud of him; he's got one employee and they have half a season under their belt. Going well!

q - Quite enjoyed many quiet evenings this year at the kitchen table with Barclay, him working on his business and me on my books, drinking coffee and sometimes interrupting each other to ask for opinions or advice or whatever.

r - Read 14 books—which I'm going to consider pretty good, considering it was a crazy busy year. This doesn't include the books Barclay read out loud to me though, so...probably closer to 20.

s - Sullivan turned 4 & Scarlett turned 2—today, actually! (Happy Birthday, Scarlatti!)

t - Tourism Regina sent me to some fun events—mostly concerts and music festivals (above) but also the CP Women's Open, Nuit Blanche, Cinema Under the Stars, the RCMP Heritage Museum, the Ex, Fan Expo, and Video Games Live.

u - Undertow by Stars was one of my favorite songs. (The song itself is off of the Sad Robots EP, which is from 2008 or something, but, I don't know, it just never caught me until this year, and then I listened to it a lot.)

v - Vacation. Our family vacation this year was a couple of days in Saskatoon. We walked around, drank coffee, etc. It was super chill.

w - Wrote my second book, which I'm going to turn in to my publisher in the new year.

x - XXXI (see y)

y - Yes, I turned 31.

z - zebra sightings: 0.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Dear Loved Ones IRL

“Writing is something you do alone. Its a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don't want to make eye contact while doing it." - John Green

I was on a walk with someone the other day and she asked how the book stuff was going and I said it was going well and she said, "I'm so excited to read it!"

And I, immediately flattered and flustered and touched, said, "Yeah!...and then we can both pretend you didn't, right?"

She seemed surprised and asked me to explain myself, and I promptly found that I couldn't. I just did a lot of mumbling about how the whole thing is so fun, and so exciting, yes, it is, totally, and also I just never want to have to discuss it with anyone I know very well in real life. 

This confused things further because, of course, there is this: I have a blog where I write a lot, including about the books, and it is not a private blog. I have an Instagram account where I share, on average, a picture a day, and where I talk about the writing process a lot. And then, you know, I wrote these books and, with great effort and absolutely on purpose, am having them published. Publicly. 

So it's understandably confusing when I say to someone that I want to pretend with close friends and family, offline, that none of this is actually happening. Yes. Confounding.

I have had ten thousand iterations of this conversation in the past year or so, and I've found that I'm not getting any better at explaining myself. In fact, at best I'm confusing everyone, and at worst I'm offending them or maybe even hurting their feelings. The fact that I came here, to my blog, to work out and write out what I can never seem to say in real life almost feels like an explanation in and of itself. But I'll try to elaborate just a touch more. 

Okay.

I'm not even sure where to start. Maybe with this:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself
(I am large, I contain multitudes)
- Walt Whitman

I have always wanted to be an author. I have always loved writing. And I have always been terrified of people reading what I write. I want people to read what I've written, because that's obviously a measure of success as an author, and I want to be published so that lots of people can read what I've written, and I don't want anyone to read what I've written because I'm the one who wrote it. 

When I started this blog, I protected it from everyone I knew in real life—Barclay, my family, my friends, everyone. There was a tiny community of strangers who read my blog, and I read theirs, and it was just a great way to practise writing and to connect with other people who loved writing too. It was a simpler time, when the internet wasn't so searchable, when blogs weren't so discoverable. As people began to find this place, though, I realized I had to make a decision: give up this hobby that I loved and the community I built here, because CRIPPLING EMBARRASSMENT, or keep on going and pretend like I didn't die inside every time someone in real life told me they'd stumbled across my blog or someone had shared it with them. 

This already sounds dumb. Bear with me; these are just my actual feelings. I just actually feel them. 

So the book thing, at first, was much the same as the blog thing. I was going to keep it a secret. I was going to use a pen name and tell NO ONE. My dream has never been fame; my dream has been the finished product: a legit book. Professionally edited and designed and published. 

Barclay said, "There are a few people who would want to know you wrote a book." And then I almost decided not to write a book because, well, he was right. People would be put out if I didn't tell them, and I was not willing to tell them. But then I found that I was so attached to the idea of publishing a book that I also couldn't not do that. I was stuck between something I could not do and something I could not not do and at first I couldn't tell whether it would be harder to do something hard or to not do something wonderful...and somehow, I ended up here.

And this is how it's been for every single step in the process. Weighing the outcome against my fear, briefly considering giving up, and then pushing forward in spite of myself.

My bestest-best friends know that I mostly deliver book news by text message (or not at all) and then get really, really weird about it if they want to follow up in real life. I can barely even say the names of my books out loud because I wrote those too. 

I got my book deal in January and didn't tell my parents about it until April (and then I did it via super awkward text message, sandwiched in between a picture of something Sullivan made and a funny story about something he said).

And Barclay will attest to the fact that any time I get good news about this process, or any time I have a phone meeting with my agent or editor, I get actually, physically ill. The better the news, the sicker I get. My whole entire being suffers from stage fright. (It's actually kind of incredible, the way the brain is, like, connected to the body like that.)

All that said, I'm loving it. I have had a headache for months and the knots in my shoulders are like rocks, but I'm having the time of my life, I really am. I'm so happy and sick and it's all I want to talk about and I do not want to talk about it at all—like really, at all. I would not create a fictional character like this because my editors would say she didn't make sense. They'd say, "So her life-long dream is finally coming true and she just wants to pretend nothing's happening? This is dumb."

And I'd say, "Oh, it's not that she wants to pretend it's not happening. She'd be okay talking to strangers about it."

And they'd be like, "What about her charming, supportive husband who cares so much and asks so many intentional questions?"

And I'd say, "Mm...maybe him sometimes. Depending on her mood. But he's kind of figured her out and knows which questions make her eye twitch and he avoids those. It's really actually very sweet."

Anyway. This is my brain, hello and welcome, I'm sorry if it's weird. I will try my best to not be a jerk, but maybe, if you know me in real life, you could sometimes—just sometimes—meet me in the middle and pretend like I'm an architect or an accountant or some other occupation where we don't really talk about the specifics of my job very much. And the rest of the time I will laugh too much and turn too red and make self-deprecating jokes and steer the conversation hard the other way without even meaning to. (Don't forget that I'm saving you too, because what if you want to talk about this, like, all the time and then you actually read it and you hate it and suddenly you don't know how to mention it in front of me without being super awkward...)

And we will mutually understand that we love each other and that's actually why I'm so shy about this in front of you, and neither of us think that makes much sense but, hey, people don't make sense in all kinds of ways! You're weird too, you just don't write about it on the internet.

Which is probably a good call.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

On Blurbs and Blurbing

So, blurbs. You know what they are, even if you think you don't (this has been true for 100% of the people who looked at me funny and said, "Your what?" when I told them my first blurbs came in).

The blurb (aka endorsement) is that little sentence or paragraph of promotional praise you find on the cover of a book (or just inside, or on the back, or on the Amazon page, or wherever). It's written by another author, usually one that has some clout in the publishing world, and I guess its purpose is to show that, look, a legit literary person read this book all the way through and they liked it, so if you like them/if you like books like theirs/if you like books that can be read all the way through and spoken glowingly about, you might like this book too. 

I've always noticed blurbs on the covers of books and wondered about the process behind them—how did this other author get ahold of this book in time to write this praise before the cover was finalized and the book was published? Did that author really even like or read that book or were they bribed? I know we got blurbs for the C+C book, but I wasn't really in on the process and this felt like a new thing to me still, so I googled it and came across these nuggets of wisdom from authors who have gone before me:

1. Asking for blurbs is humiliating and horrible—especially for debut authors.


3. It's not uncommon to ask a lot of people to blurb your book and come up with nothing.

The gist of it: Brace yourself (that's a direct quote). No one's heard of you. You're asking people who have never heard of you to read an entire book you've written and, if they like it, say something nice about it. Not only that, you're asking this of other authors—people who are presumably very busy writing books, beta reading for their actual friends and writing groups, promoting their own work, doing conferences and tours, etc. You're asking them to put their name on your book, which is kind of a massive favour. 

So, okay then. I was ready when the email came from Alicia saying we were going to see if we could get some blurbs for V&V. I prepared myself to get exactly zero blurbs. If I even got one blurb that said, "This book is okay!" that would be great, I thought. And then I thought, "Wow, this is exactly like walking the hallways on the first day of high school asking other students if they think you're pretty, and then if they say yes, asking them, In what way and will you write that down for me?"

Not my thing, you know?

But we did it! (Actually, Alicia and Victoria did it! They do everything! I like them so much!) And it feels like a big enough deal to blog about. They sent out a (very early, not completely edited) copy of the book to some authors they thought might like it and who write in the same genre as I do, and then we waited. They've now begun to trickle in, and it's very, very good for my frazzled nerves.

(My nerves are so much more frazzled than I thought possible at the beginning of this whole thing, which is why if you've asked me about my book at any point in the past nine months, I've stared at you like you slapped me across the face and dumbly said, "Uhhh...yeah...it's...let's not talk about that, please." But that's a subject for a whole other blog post because this one is about BLURBS.)


Yay.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Valencia and Valentine Has A Cover!

We've all heard that dumb old saying about not judging the covers of books. It's very old and I think we could retire it. I always judge the covers of books and I always will because that's the whole dang point of covers of books: they're supposed to give you an idea of the style or mood of the book, maybe hint at a character or two, or the setting, or a detail pertinent to the plot. They're supposed to imply genre and they tell you who wrote it and what it's called. Everything is intentional, if a cover is well-designed, right down to the colours and the fonts.

If you were not meant to judge a book by its cover, a book would not have a cover. 

That said, I'm finally allowed to show you the cover of my book, so judge away, people. It was designed by Philip Pascuzzo (one of the designers behind the famous Twitter logo). It's going to be in hardcover and paperback, which is especially exciting to me because Lake Union is known for their beautiful hardcovers and it'll be a dream come true to have my name on one. 


Isn't it so pretty? I have it saved as the lock screen on my phone so I see it all day every day. Many thanks to Pepco Studios, but also to Lake Union and Alicia and Victoria for all the back-and-forth brainstorming sessions and allowing me to give my input. It was suuuuch a cool process. 

One step closer to pub day!

PS: You can preorder here (or click on the cover above), but I also just wanted to take a moment to add that preordering/buying a book is not the only way to show support to a person who has written one (though it really does help and I'm enormously thankful for everyone who's done this, srsly). 

A few other (free) ways are:

Add the book to your to-reads on Goodreads.


Same with bookstores. If you happen to be there anyway, I mean. It helps bookstore employees become aware of a book they might not have known about otherwise and maybe they'll read it and maybe they'll like it and then maybe they'll start handselling it, which would be the best.