SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
It was mid-August, 2014 when I first learned about a great opportunity to sign with a big, nation-wide traditional publisher.
Six months ago. The beginning of my half year long nightmare.
No, not writing the book itself. Writing is a joy, and sometimes the only thing that gets me through horrible life events like illness, election campaigns, and winter. But I made a major mistake, back in August. When I first started corresponding with the editors of Arcadia Publishing, I made a joke about how a February deadline was plenty of time, as long as nothing went wrong.
You don’t make fun of Batman’s tights. You don’t kick Chuck Norris’ pickup truck. And you don’t spit in the face of Murphy’s Law.
It’s a miracle that we were only four days late delivering the first draft, after which my wife and I collapsed into mutual balls of physical and mental exhaustion. The dog was fine, though.
Images of America: Albion and Noble County is a book by both of us (me and Emily, not me and the dog). It required tracking down old photos about—well, the title should tell you—(the collecting was done by both of us), and a whole lot of time scanning the photos into a computer under very exacting standards (by her), followed by research and writing (by me). I probably spent the most hours on it, but she did the hardest work. Researching history and writing stuff isn’t exactly work to me. I mean, it can be hard, and time consuming, and frustrating, and exhausting … okay, I guess it is work. But it’s work I like to do.
All would have been well except for Murphy’s Law, which quite clearly states: “Anything that possibly could go wrong, will”. Ah, that crazy Murphy, the eternal optimist.
In one of the very first e-mails I sent to William Wallace of Arcadia, I mentioned that my wife had caught one of those nasty summer colds. (You know William Wallace from Braveheart, of course.) It should have served as a warning. By the time I was handed off to the regional editor, Maggie Bullwinkel, I had to tell her things were getting rocky.
This would be a good time to point out that working with the people of Arcadia was great. They were nothing but helpful and encouraging, and even when I missed the deadline and had cover problems, they never yelled at me. (I mean, book cover problems, although I landed under the covers at home several times.) The problem is, for the first time I got a book contract before the book was finished.
Over the course of the next six months, one of my daughters landed in the hospital multiple times and was diagnosed with a serious ongoing illness; my grandmother was rushed to the hospital in the middle of a snowstorm; I took my other daughter and one of my grandkids to the doctor, not to mention my wife and I showing up there ourselves multiple times …
Well, let’s just boil it down: In a six month period, every single person I know was either hospitalized, injured, in an accident, or became seriously ill. Or all of the above, and sometimes more than once. The only exceptions were the couple of people who are going to write and say, “Hey, you know me and I was fine that whole time!” That’s because they suffered head injuries and lost their memories.
Of course, it’s just as possible that I missed someone being well because of the two month long sinus infection that made me feel like the Alien alien was trying to force is way out of my face.
It was also during this time that the springs on my garage door broke while I was holding the door handle, slamming me down into the concrete like a crash test dummy. You’d think that kind of force would clear my sinuses. This was before the freezing rain incidents and the snowstorms.
It was also during this time that I lost my writing job of twenty-five years, and picked up a new one, which took a little adjustment time. There were holidays too, I think, around December or so. I’ll have to get back to you on that.
It was, in short, a nightmarish time of illness, pain, rushing around, stress, and did I mention winter? Still, in the end, we finished the book and got it sent in. So … was it worth it?
Maybe I’ll go into detail on that another time. But it’s one of those funny things about writers: The “having written” part seems to make up for everything else.