What a short strange year it’s been.
This time exactly a year ago I took a deep breath, looked at the Smashwords submission page one last time, and clicked “Publish”.
Hours later – because there were a couple of hundred books in the queue – I saw the first version of Lies and Consequences go live for downloading. So I downloaded it to check it (because Smashwords doesn’t have a preview function.) Then I swore loudly, because the entire book was centered and not just the title page!
So I worked to redo the formatting and submitted it again. And sat through two hours biting my nails as I watched people downloading the bad version of the book. And then the revision came up, and despite having followed directions it wasn’t fixed. So I went down to a plain text file and reformatted and tried again – crap, all the italics are missing. I put all the italics in by hand – more crap, now the title page is all left-justified and the chapter headings are messed up. I re-re-formatted – now the whole book is left justified but at least the chapters work … To freaking hell with it, that’s close enough.
By the way, if anyone out there has a copy without any italics or all centered, go get a new one. It’s free. Unless of course you like not having my addiction to italics in there.
That was my very first book, before any of my pro work had come out. Back then, Life Lessons had been accepted by MLR and was in editing. But I wanted to get Lies out before DADT was too much of a fading memory. MLR looked at the synopsis and said, “No thanks.” For which I can’t blame them. I mean, have you read that book? I think I put three books worth of suspension-of-disbelief plot in there. Even I looked at the synopsis and wondered what the heck I’d been thinking.
However, I decided I didn’t want to trim and warp it to professional standards. (I had a sneaking fondness for my OTT plot.) So self pub seemed the logical answer. I figured, as a freebie, no one would complain too much if they didn’t like it. I had no beta, no proofreader, just me and the book. And a major anxiety attack as it went live. This was it. No more writing for myself and shelving the book away. People were going to read my book. People were going to *gulp* comment on it. I was an author. Maybe.
Within 24 hours Lies had its first review. A good, well-written and fair review with a four-star rating. The author of that has become disenchanted with me since then, but I will always be grateful to her for that review. It made me feel like I could do this professional writing thing. It was an injection of confidence at a time when I desperately needed one. I was an author. Definitely.
A year ago. Wow. It seems both like yesterday and like forever. Because it did change my life.
Since then I’ve had a bunch of books come out. Enough that I have to check Goodreads when I list them not to miss any. I’ve had reviews and interviews, and even been on blog radio. Now when I say I’m a writer there is no hesitation. I am. And the writing has given me so much in return.
The biggest part of this year has been the people. Oh, releasing the books is fun, and I still read the reviews (Well, mostly. I appreciate the good ones, and the bad ones are okay as long as they darned well explain themselves. I’ve learned a lot from negative reviews.) I’m thrilled and humbled and a little freaked out that people now sometimes buy a book pretty much just because I wrote it. How cool is that?
But the people I have met have been the biggest and most wonderful change in my life.
Following a Googled review of Lies and Consequences led me to Goodreads. I hesitantly signed up, and claimed my book, and got an author page. And people friended me and suggested groups and recommended a wealth of wonderful books. I found a community of folks who read and discussed and shared and were welcoming and supportive. (And who squabbled and acted like drama queens sometimes, but that’s a story for another time.)
So many people with shared interests, and some of them generously willing to help me figure out my path. Josh Lanyon’s crit and discussion group made me welcome for a season and made me feel like a real author. (And taught me some valuable lessons along the way.) A host of people on the M/M Romance thread joined me in conversations and actually seemed to enjoy my input. Some gay guys shared parts of their lives with me, via their wonderful blogs (Thorny, Matt & Brad) and later even as friends (adding in BJ, Alex, Jordie, Jerry, and more.) They made me feel that my usurpation of their culture for my writing was a good thing and not a presumptuous intrusion. Some of them even read my books.
People offered to beta my work. They invited me to join their chats and commented on my blogs, here and on Goodreads. I was even invited to moderate the Young Adult LGBT Books group, and became a mentor of sorts to other readers. A few people became true close friends, and one is now a friend of the heart (yes, Sammy, that’s you.)
What a difference a year makes, from my solitary writer cave to this.
Who knows what next year will bring? I have a novel in editing (Home Work, the third Life Lessons book.) I have a free short story releasing this summer (well, at 61,000 words, make that a free novella.) The plot bunnies in my head are multiplying like there’s been a clearance sale on Viagra. The Young Adult group will be having it’s own anniversary soon. I have YA writing in progress, including two novels…
All I know is, I am a writer. And while there will never again be anything like this first year, with its ups and downs, I look forward to seeing what I can do with the experience I’ve gained. I love knowing that there will be a bunch of my friends hanging out with me. And people willing to read what I write.
If you’ve had the patience to read through my blog this far, there is a reward. Well, a couple of them. In honor of my year as a writer, I’m giving away three ebooks – winner’s choice. Leave a comment with your email. The winners will be chosen randomly and I’ll email you and you can pick your poison.
And I decided I would put out a free story. This is a short story I wrote for an anthology call for Storm Moon Press, way back close to the beginning of The Year That Made My Head Spin. In the end, they returned it because they didn’t get enough submissions to do the anthology. So I decided, rather than stuff it in a drawer, why not post it here. This is the link.
An enormous thank-you to everyone for being part of a mind-blowing first year as an author for me. Year two is coming up. I hope you stick around for the ride.