My Thanksgiving 2011 began with fireworks. Not festival fireworks, not interpersonal fireworks, but pirate fireworks. More specifically, I was turning pirates into fireworks for profit and amusement. Not much profit, perhaps, but the amusement side of things made it worth it.
While engaged in the above activity, I was rolling this post around in my mind. Thanksgiving posts should be about being thankful, but how to do it without sounding trite or insincere? Even more alarming to me was my lack of content ideas. What am I thankful for? Why am I having difficulty coming up with things? I’m a recent resident of Dreams Come True land. I have a decent job, a place to live, a functioning car (for the time being), amazing friends and family, and the best damn girlfriend I could ever have hoped for. All those things could fill a (rather dull) book. What am I so worried about?
A few pirate ships later, the answer came to me: I was afraid that the above sounded too ordinary. I wanted my Thanksgiving post to stand out among the millions just like it. What was something unique that I could be thankful for? Green pens, maybe, or horizontal blinds. Something wacky and quirky and wow-look-how-original-I-am-y.
It was then that the cranky asshole hardwired into my marrow–another thing for which I’m thankful–asserted itself. “Bullshit,” it said. “Utter bullshit.” Those three words (one of them’s twice) kicked my ego in the teeth, and I realized that it’s perfectly fine to be thankful for the blessings in your life even if they don’t stand out. Thanksgiving should be an eating contest, not a pissing contest. Who gives a shit if this post sounds like everybody else’s? That just means that there are other people who have the same great things I do, and that’s fantastic.
So, to all my friends and family old and new, near and far: thank you for enriching and shaping the course of my life. To my newly-acquired editors: thank you for believing in me and giving me the chance of a lifetime. To my beautiful Tori: thank you for the past 6 years of friendship, love, faith, dedication, and laughter.
To everyone reading this post: thank you for stopping by, and I wish you a safe and happy holiday.
So that creamy blue zen I spoke of in my last post? Where I was all leafy and the world was all watery and I was like Wash in that I was floating gracefully along (at least until that
fuckergentleman Whedon punched a hole in his chest)?
That peace of mind lasted for about a week, long enough to spread my enthusiasm among my family and close friends. Then, with the onset of NaNoWriMo, the gravity of what I’d actually gotten myself into hit me like a rogue asteroid smashing into a Class T planet. And I’m the asteroid. Suddenly, I have a deadline for getting my next book drafted. That draft will be handed directly over to editors to tear apart and rebuild as something publishable. Suddenly, people are expecting me to perform, and perform well. My time spent writing isn’t pie-in-the-sky ambition anymore; it’s solicited and will be treated as such. Suddenly, my writing and I are exposed to the wider world. No longer am I safely sailing the void incognito, free to poke and prod and spout without being noticed, my cloaking device powered by the endless energy of anonymity. When Angry Robot announced that Cassandra Rose Clarke and I were the first two authors signed through the Open Door Month, my blog traffic increased 1,800% in a single day. Suddenly, people are paying attention to me.
Having a dream materialize before your eyes means taking it on toe-to-toe: elation, excitement, fear, and all the rest of it. Head down, caffeine levels up, fingers flying. It’s time to prove myself worthy of the amazing opportunity the Robot Overlords have given me. This isn’t just a hobby anymore.
I grew up watching Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew roam the Milky Way aboard NCC-1701-D, expertly balancing inter-personal drama with the mind-shredding horrors of an infinite vacuum. A young child with an overactive imagination for all things malevolent, I couldn’t hope for more powerful nightmare fuel. Whether it was an animate blob of evil striking the life out of Tasha Yar, the entire ship going balls-crazy from lack of dreaming (and the equally horrifying realization that the Enterprise‘s salvation rested in Counselor Troi’s
cleavagehands), or Riker’s sanity peeling away layer by layer during play rehearsals, the show always gave me something new to imagine laying in wait for me in the dark.
One of my favorite episodes featured the dynamic, inspiring Captain Picard falling prey to the Borg, becoming an agent of their unfeeling cybernetic consciousness. The sickly, grayish hue of his skin, the tubes erupting from his skull, and his sporadic laser pointer were all equal parts horrifying and awesome. Repeated viewings at older ages diminished the former part but not the latter. To this day, becoming a cyborg remains one of my highest aspirations.
Thus, when I first received the email from Angry Robot Books
editorRobot Overlord Lee Harris saying that they wanted to publish The Dead of Winter, my reaction puzzled me. There I was, accepted into a collective of furious positronic life-forms. It was the realization of a boyhood fantasy and an adult (or megaboy) dream condensed into a single paragraph. In the scenarios I had played out in my head (usually by the minute), I pictured myself whooping, hollering, heaving small objects skyward, and committing petty crimes.
Instead, I simply leaned back in my chair, looked up at the ceiling, and smiled. Of course I was excited; I’ve only ever wanted a few things in my life more than I wanted that email. The laughing and hugging and crying, they all came, but in that precise moment, I was transported. Untethered and weightless, I floated, second to second, breath to breath, torn from my place in time. Soft grey light filtered through my closed eyelids as I drifted. The world was cool and blue and silent, and I was a fallen leaf on its surface. My time of anxiety, of keeping one Firefox tab open to my inbox all throughout the day, of tirelessly calculating and recalculating my odds, was over.
Coming soon: …And what happened after.
Buckling under pressure, I’ve decided to be cheap (and late) with this week’s post. Navigating the past week has felt akin to navigating the asteroid belt near Corneria, and I’m afraid my battered Arwing has fallen victim to the stalwart, enigmatic Rock Crusher. (Side note: if anyone figured out exactly how it is supposed to crush rocks, the hours I squandered pondering that question will not have been in vain.)
I promise to have more meat and mead for you next week, but between drafting my next book, editing graduate school essays, learning DreamWeaver, working full-time, weddings, holidays, car troubles, math courses, and responding to a very amusing beta invite, I’m afraid I haven’t much left in my larder to satiate the masses.
NaNoWriMo is a beast of a thing by layman standards. 1,667 words per day with self-flagellation lurking around every corner and public humiliation perched in the rafters, watching you stumble through the darkness. They are waiting for you to fail, ready to consume your soft, fleshy bits if you so much as think of stopping.
Despite this, hundreds of thousands of people lock themselves in a room with these monsters for 30 days each year. Some hope that they will emerge on the other end with something publishable. For others, it is a challenge: can they outrun the skittering feet in the darkness? Still others use it as a socializing tool, trolling the forums ad nauseum and making it to every write-in and party their local coordinators can put together.
Two years ago, I bested the challenge put forth by Chris Baty and his collective of amiable minions and stood victorious on December 1 with 50,000 words of my first manuscript completed. It was a torturous experience. My girlfriend can attest to my surliness, lack of proper hygiene, and failure to participate in anything entertaining. My memories of it are somewhat hazy; I recall shouting, blood, and the sound of my own bones breaking. Shadowy things laughed as they poked me with spears, and I wept at the cruelty of the world.
So let’s do it again. I’m registered as Samovar on the NaNo website; feel free to buddy up. I want as many people as possible to witness my failure should things go awry (I promise, the failure will be spectacular). Should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the people of Earth said something about not going quietly into the night. We will not vanish without a fight. We’re going to live on. We’re going to survive. Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!
Yes, Bill Pullman’s POTUS from Independence Day is my shining example of determination and courage in the face of overwhelming odds.