Cricket’s chirp, small birds flit back and forth to the feeder in my parent’s back garden. My brothers and sister took the kids to the drive-in to see How to Tame a Dragon II and Maleficent. A temporary peace has settled on this early summer evening. Soon the fireflies will join me as I sit at the picnic table on the carport, thinking about the past week. My debut novel Calvin’s Head comes out exactly three months from today and everything is beginning to click into place.
It’s hard to believe that two years ago I sat in this same spot working on the second draft, adding another 25,000 words to the 50,000 I had written six months earlier. Or that last summer I was offered a contract by publisher Bold Strokes Books. Or that last month I did the first public reading of a chapter at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival. Three months doesn’t seem so far away.
A Modest Proposal
The week began by setting up a PayPal account, a seemingly mundane task to facilitate advance and royalty payments. But I have lived abroad for almost thirty years, and American financial practices have become a mystery to me. A friend patiently tried to explain, I pretended to understand, and in the end we sorted out. But there was little time to dwell on my vague feeling of ineptitude.
I jumped immediately into writing a proposal for the next book. I’ve been developing the story for a year now, and the first chapters have been written. But now that I am a (nearly) published author, the planning process steps up a notch. And I was happily surprised to find how much writing a premise, a cover blurb, and a plot summery could clarify the story I am about to tell. (Not here, not now. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.) After two days of tinkering, I sent off the finished proposal.
Then came a message via Twitter, which resulted in an offer to write my first Guest Blog piece. Then an email from someone I met at ThrillerFest two years ago who had heard about the book being published and was curious about the status of the film rights. Really? And then my review of the fascinating memoir Queerly Beloved, which I was commissioned to write for the excellent gay literary magazine Chelsea Station, was posted on its website. The byline included: “…his debut novel Calvin’s Head, a psychological thriller set in Amsterdam, will be published in September…” What a great way to end the week!
By then I was already at my parents house for the various family reunions, some happy and some less so. I brought a few books with me for reference or research, thinking I might have some time to continue work on the new book. A bit overly optimistic, I now realize. Great-nephews from Alaska, aged two and five, require a great deal more time and energy to entertain than I had anticipated. Perhaps a short break is just what I needed now after all.
The next three months are going to be the busiest yet. There are final copy edits to approve and layouts to proofread before the manuscript heads to the printer early next month. I’ve registered for a day of workshops set up by Mystery Writers of America, and will go to the International Thriller Writers yearly event ThrillerFest in mid-July. I have to write that Guest Blog, and attend an authors retreat at the end of July hosted by my publisher. I need to set up launch events in New York City for September, and in Amsterdam before I return in October. And there are other avenues of promotion to explore along the way. Each and every step is new and exciting. As more experienced authors told me at Saints & Sinners, you only have a debut novel once and it’s as important to enjoy the ride, as it is to take advantage of the opportunities it may offer.
Then there is that new book to keep working on. I’ve promised a full draft by the end of November. The deadline may be more than five months away, but I know the time will fly by with the breakneck speed of a runaway train. Yes. A short break turns out to have been a good idea. Right in the middle of June when in many places International Crime Fiction Month is celebrated. Three months before my own crime fiction novel is published. Synchronicity.
Night has fallen around me as I finish this short reflection, and the fireflies are winking their luminescent encouragement.