It’s been 21 years (!?) since The Rising of the Moon was published by Del Rey in 1993. The book received a few nice reviews, was even nominated for a couple of awards (didn’t win), and sold a few copies (I was working in a bookstore at the time it came out, so I probably sold most of them myself, as Del Rey did no marketing that I’m aware of), and then my publishing “career” sputtered to a stop. I wrote a few more novels over the years, had an agent and then another one, but didn’t sell another book to a publisher. The second agent tried to sell one he claimed to love, but the only six publishers he apparently deals with didn’t want it, so he gave up. The next novel I wrote he didn’t like much, so he dropped me as a client. I was floundering, wondering if writing was only going to be a hobby, trying not to give up hope of succeeding at the only thing I’ve ever really cared about doing—then e-publishing happened.
I bought a Nook to see what it was all about, then bought a Kindle because Amazon is the giant in the book-selling industry and I wanted to compare the two. I love both the Nook and the Kindle. I buy way too many books for both (almost never spending more than a few dollars on any book and usually getting them for free), but I rarely have time to read.
Life is complicated. Yes, I know, that’s profound. In January of this year, I was laid off from the university where I’ve worked for the last 30 years or so. It was the fourth time I’ve been laid off from the UW, and this time I don’t think I’m going back. The other times, I had few choices. I always seemed to end up working in a library on campus until another editor job came along, then I would get that job because I was on the lay-off list. This time, however, I was already working for myself, doing copyediting for a publisher, and making more money than I ever had at the university. Working more hours, too: There have been advantages (freedom) as well as disadvantages (no time to do anything else when you’re working on deadline, seven days a week). Anyway, I think I’m finally done with the university. Not quite old enough to retire, but old enough to know I’d rather work for myself than to answer to anybody else ever again.
So I was busy working too much, trying to learn about self-publishing in my “spare time”—which I never have. I dug out the old files of the second novel I wrote, A Night Devoid of Stars, and tried to follow the often-conflicting advice I found online and in e-books about how to prepare a manuscript for e-publishing. I worked at it, slowly, making changes, wondering if the thing was good enough to bother with at all. Then, a few weeks after I lost my job, my mother died. Quite unexpectedly. I won’t go into that, but it was nearly a knockout punch. My biggest fan, my best friend, my strongest supporter, the one person who always believed in me—suddenly gone. It’s been seven months, and I’m not over it. I’ll never be over it. Then a few months later, George Donaldson died, also completely unexpectedly. Okay, so I never had the privilege of meeting George, but he meant a lot to me. A lot. I have every Celtic Thunder album and DVD and go to see them in concert every time they come to Seattle. Every Thunderhead knows what a sweet man George was, and gods, could he sing! I think I was in too much shock when my mother died to even cry very much, but when George died too, so soon after . . . Depression can run in families, and there is some connection—I think, though I’m no expert—between depression and creativity. Let’s just say that depression and I have been long-acquainted. Even so, I continued, slowly, to work on Night. I tried to make a cover, which looked kind of cheesy, definitely amateurish, but then, I don’t know a lot about Photoshop so I did the best I could. Then a very nice woman named Laura DiFiore, who had loved Moon and beta-read Night for me, found a wonderful picture online and told me about it. It was perfect. I bought it from the artist so I would have the right to use it for a cover ($75 but well worth it), and a small picture of the moon in the same color, played around with fonts, and came up with a new cover. I’m still no expert in Photoshop or graphic arts at all, but hey, I like it. Laura also gave me a few great ideas for changes to Night, which I worked on. Eventually, I stopped rewriting. (Because you have to at some point: Even though you can always make it better, if you never stop rewriting, it will never be done.) I thought I was almost ready to try to self-publish. I still knew nothing about what comes after—marketing and whatnot. But I was beginning to think I would never publish the thing. So I did it. Too soon? Not enough information? Probably. Almost certainly. But I uploaded it to Amazon. Within hours, there it was: my book, my second novel, published. Then I had to leave town for my mother’s belated memorial service. I was gone about five days, then was swamped with editing work when I returned. I’ve checked online once or twice (or three times) and have seen no reviews at all yet. I don’t know if anyone has even bought the thing. I’m sure there are ways to find out, but I just haven’t had the time to do so. Then Robin Williams died.
Damn it—AGAIN?! People I care about need to stop dying. Seriously. How can you drag yourself up out of the pit of despair when the universe keeps knocking you back down there? And the reason he died— I think it was Garry Marshall who said that Robin made the whole world laugh, but he couldn’t make himself happy. That’s about the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. First my mother: The group of people who knew and loved her was perhaps small, but no one loved her more than I did. Then George: At the very least, tens of thousands of people loved George, whether they had met him or not. And Robin: Millions of people loved him, the world over. It feels like the universe has been upping the stakes. STOP IT. NO MORE.
Tomorrow, if I have no editing, I will continue reading about how to market my self-published book. I know it involves doing things I have absolutely no interest in, like joining Facebook and Twitter and Goodreads and . . . gods know what other kinds of social media. (I’m a writer, damn it; I am NOT social!) But today . . . no. I think I’ll watch “Good Morning, Vietnam” or maybe “RV” or “The Birdcage” or “Mrs. Doubtfire.” Again. I really need the laughter. And I’ll try never to forget what Robin told Oprah a long time ago: