“Which One?”

Recently, I had a conversation with someone I hadn’t heard from in three or four months. He asked whether I’d finished my book.

My immediate response was, “Which one?”

It isn’t that I’m working on a lot of books at this point, though that used to be the case. From 2009-2015 or so, I was always working on a book or short story, and during a lot of that time, I worked on more than one project simultaneously. If someone asked whether I’d finished my book, I genuinely had no way to know which one they were talking about, unless I remembered the last conversation I’d had with them. Even if I did remember it, though, it might not help me figure out which book  they meant, because I might have talked to them about more than one.

hard cover books in attractive colors
hard cover books in attractive colors

Nowadays, I work on one book at a time, and sometimes I’m not working on any books or stories. But as I rebuild my career in the direction it used to be–though hopefully less stressful and better organized–I’m nearly always working on something, even if it’s just a brainstorm.

In the few months since the last time I spoke to this person, I worked on, and then temporarily set aside, a young adult novel. I’ve written several short stories, and completed a novel I’d been working on for nearly a year and a half; the stories and this novel are adult fiction and under a new pen name which I haven’t officially launched yet. My memory is wonkier than it used to be, so I legitimately can’t even remember for sure when I last talked to this person, let alone which project I’d talked to him about. And I didn’t want to ask, because that would have looked a little foolish. Some people don’t understand why I don’t remember every word of every book I’ve written; most people definitely wouldn’t understand why I can’t remember what I was working on this past summer.

Since I had recently finished the adult novel, I told him that yes, I’d finished my book. I just hope that was the book he was asking about…

Completion Euphoria

There’s a certain feeling I get when I finish the first draft of a manuscript. I feel it when I finish editing rounds and when the book is released, too, but it’s strongest when I mentally type “the end” on a first draft.

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I don’t actually type “the end.” Publishers sometimes don’t like that. But in my mind, those words appear on the bottom of the final page.

The feeling is hard to describe. Euphoria is pretty close. It’s the jump-for-joy, happy, shout-from-the-rooftops sensation that fills every part of my body. I’ve been working on this book for however long. I might have had to delete half of it and start over; that happens sometimes. I’ve agonized over how to word things just right, and whether I’m repeating myself or contradicting something from earlier in the story. I’ve wondered if the bleeping thing is ever going to be finished.

And now it’s finished.

But alongside the excitement and joy of being able to say I’ve written another book, there’s a sort of let-down feeling. I’ve been working on the book for however long, and the characters have become my constant companions. During the waking moments when I’m not sitting at the computer actively typing, part of my brain has been occupied with thoughts of plot points and plot holes, and how to get the characters from A to B. Sometimes I’ve even dreamed about the story and the characters.

And now it’s finished.

Finishing the first draft of a book is definitely a time for mixed emotions. I’m never sure what emotion I’ll feel the most strongly, though I know I’ll at least be proud of myself for getting it done. But while sometimes I celebrate and literally do jump for joy, other times I cry. I know I’ll see the characters and story again, because there’s editing to do once the manuscript has set for a while, but for now they’re not going to be part of my life, and sometimes that causes me to feel sad even as I’m feeling happy.

Teaser- A Perfectly Nice Guy

From a work in progress. Susurrus: Season of Tides (C)2017 Evil Overlord Games. Used by permission.

I went upstairs to my room. The house only had three bedrooms, but Mom and Dad had converted the attic into a room for me when Kendrick was born. I was eleven then and didn’t want to share with a baby, and my parents didn’t want Kendrick sharing with Donovan even though she was only three and he was a baby. So I’d ended up in the attic, which was fine with me even though in the summer it could be a furnace. I had privacy, and that mattered more than staying cool. At least Dad had put in an air conditioner.

My laptop was on my bed where I’d left it. I opened it and refreshed the browser, which was already on the game forums. I’d been playing before school, even though I wasn’t supposed to be online in the mornings. What my parents didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them.

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Susurrus wasn’t one of the usual types of online RPGs. Instead of choosing a character and running around bashing things, players chose a character and read things, and clicked on links that led to more things. It was kind of like the old Choose Your Own Adventure books the town library had, which I’d read as a kid, except in the game, other people were making choices that might affect yours.

No one knew I was a gamer. Like acting in community theater, it was a way-too-geeky thing that wouldn’t have gone over well in Dayfield. Some of my friends did Dungeons and Dragons, and a couple even did ren faires and that kind of thing, and they got hassled for it on a regular basis. They got hassled for being theater nerds too, which was why I’d never joined the school drama club. I liked keeping some things in my life separate.

The little envelope icon near the top of the page had a “1” beside it. Someone had messaged me, and that someone was almost definitely Corriman. No one else would have.

I clicked the envelope and read his message. Liked what you said about the mage alphabet. They should use your idea.

I couldn’t help smiling. He liked something I’d said. My idea about using the mage alphabet for graffiti to keep the city under control was probably a crappy one, and probably something the game writers had already considered. If the city was under control, there wouldn’t be much point to the game anyway. But it didn’t matter whether it was a good idea or not. Corriman liked it.

We’d been talking back and forth on forum posts since March, and after a couple weeks he’d also started messaging me privately. I felt like I knew him as well as my real-life friends. I didn’t, of course. All I really knew about him was his screen name and that his primary character in the game was a werewolf. Which meant having a crush on him was probably pretty stupid, but I felt how I felt. I just wished I had the guts to ask if he felt the same.

They probably wouldn’t use a player’s ideas, I typed. But thanks. Maybe I’ll just write a fan fic or something with the idea.

I read that a couple of times. I had never written a fan fic in my life. I didn’t write anything if I could help it. But Corriman didn’t know that, and he didn’t have to. I sent the message.

A new one from him showed up within minutes. This takes too long. Can I text you? Or message you on Facebook or something?

He wants to message me? Awesome! I started to type my phone number, then deleted it. Texting or instant messaging with Corriman would be awesome, unless he turned out not to be who I thought he was. That was the downside of only knowing him in the game. He might be a seventeen-year-old guy like he claimed, or he might be some elderly creeper who liked flirting with boys. Or he might be a serial killer.

Okay, the last one was definitely my imagination running away with me. But it still didn’t hurt to be cautious. I’d like that, but how do I know you aren’t going to stalk me or something? LOL. I was serious, but maybe the “LOL” would make it sound less offensive.

Back to School

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In my area, kids have either already gone back to school or are going back this week. For some, school is a pretty good place, where they enjoy at least some of their classes along with having time to socialize with friends.

For others, school is unpleasant at best. Maybe even a nightmare. That might sound overly dramatic, but for a kid who’s being bullied or harassed, or who knows they’re different from everyone else and doesn’t have friends, school might be one of the worst places in their life.

My current work-in-progress, Midnight Chat, is about a boy whose school life pretty much is a nightmare. His home life isn’t all that great either, but at least at home he isn’t getting smacked around, shoved, and called every name in the book. And at school, even though he and his best friend, from whose point of view the story is told, have reported the bullying and harassment, not much is done to stop it.

Unfortunately, even though most if not all schools have anti-bullying policies, bullying isn’t always reported. And sometimes even when it is, if it’s one person’s word against that of several others, as is the case in my book, the victim isn’t believed.

As people prepare to go back to school, or ease into the new school year if you’ve already started, I’d like to ask you to pay attention to what’s going on around you. If you see someone who seems to be completely alone, talk to them. Maybe you’ll make a new friend. If you see someone being bullied, report it. Even if you feel like you’re tattling. No one deserves to be treated poorly. Wouldn’t you want someone to stop it if it was happening to you?

Be kind. That’s pretty much what this boils down to. Just be kind.