Back when I worked in sports medicine as an athletic trainer, we used to say the job was comprised of thousands of hours of boredom interrupted by brief moments of sheer panic. You'd stand on the sidelines day after day watching game after game, and the most thrilling challenge you faced was trotting out on the field with a rack of water bottles during a time out and trying not to trip and fall on your face.
But always, in the back of your mind, was the knowledge that any moment could be THAT moment, when an athlete fell and didn't get up. When you raced onto the field reciting the A-B-C's of basic life support, replaying CPR class in your head, and running through a checklist of how to treat a spinal chord injury. In fifteen years, I'm happy to say I never needed to apply any of those skills, though there were times we immobilized and back-boarded a player as what turned out to be an unnecessary, precautionary measure. And I can honestly say, there's nothing that'll get the ol' adrenaline rushing like the sound of a human bone snapping with enough force to be heard from forty yards away.
Then it was back to the sidelines to observe a few hundred more hours of football or baseball or soccer without having to deal with anything more life threatening than a blister.
You're probably wondering where I'm going with this. Me, too. Give me a few minutes and maybe I'll remember what the point was when I started.
Oh, right. I was thinking how really, working with book publishers isn't all that different. In movies, the heroine gets a big book deal and is instantly whisked off on a glamorous tour of the world where thousands of adoring fans line up to fawn over her. Which actually happens to some authors, I've heard, but they skip over a few things. Namely, the months between when you sign on the dotted line and when something actually happens, because the gap between selling your book and actually seeing it on the shelf can easily stretch to a year. Or two.
Scheduling a book release isn't as simple as scribbling your name in an open slot on the calendar. A savvy publisher is looking at all kinds of factors. What other books are they releasing at the same time that could compete with yours because it's aimed at the same audience? Or, if they've picked yours as a book that's going to get an extra promotional boost, they'll want to avoid releasing on the same day as one of their big name authors who'll be monopolizing a lot of marketing resources. What books are other publishers releasing that might overshadow yours, especially if you're a relative unknown? What time of year do books like yours sell the best? (Yes, good marketing people know these things.) Plus a hundred other factors unknown to anyone outside the publisher's inner sanctum.
All of this to say that yes, I signed a contract for a new, three book series with Sourcebooks back in November. And then...nothing. Well, mostly nothing, at least concerning the first book, which is already complete. I got to meet the whole Sourcebooks team and my lovely editor at both the Romantic Times and Romance Writers of America conferences and learned that due to reasons stated above, the first book is tentatively scheduled to be released in June or July of 2016. I gave them a few chapters and an outline of book two and floated some book three ideas past my editor. Other than that, I've just been cooling my heels over here on the sidelines. And writing another book that I fervently hope they won't hate on sight.
Then yesterday, POW. First email from the editorial/marketing/art department with a list of what they needed from me. Author Bio, character descriptions, book blurb, etc., etc., and by the way, is there any way you can get that back to us by Friday? Or before would be better.
I felt like I'd flashed back to my athletic trainer days. Wait, wait, wait, wait.....OH MY GOD WE NEED YOU NOW.
My first reaction was, "EEK, IT'S STARTING!" And my second was, "Oh...dear...Lord....I have to look into that manuscript I haven't opened in over a year and what if it has moldered into a pile of drivel in the dank basement of my hard drive?"
I'm happy to say, it didn't spit in my face for ignoring it. And in the process of reminding myself how I described these long ago characters, I even found a few things I liked. This line of description in particular, a welcome surprise considering character description is my least favorite part of writing. If I had my way, I'd start every book with photos of the guy and the girl and say, "Refer to this as necessary".
Anyway, the line goes like so:
"This close she could smell the clean sweat that had his hair hanging in damp clumps around his face, and see that his eyes were green. The color of luck, and money, and the grass on the other side of the fence."
I like to think the description tells you something about his character, and how the person doing the describing feels about him. That's the goal with good physical description, anyway, to reveal something of the character of both the subject and the person looking at them, not just an inventory of parts.
The other bit of good news is, I've already done this once before and knew what to expect, so I had most of what my publisher needed already in mind, if not on hand. One frantic email to my agent's office got me the hardest bit, so for once in my life I got my homework done and handed in ahead of time.
If only I'd learned this lesson sooner. Perhaps I wouldn't have procrastinated my way through eight years of college. Or not. Sometimes it's more exciting to just be ready to take the leap at a moment's notice.