I was originally going to post this yesterday, because November 14, 2015 was the one-year anniversary of The Christmas Lights, the first book (okay, novella) I've ever published! And a whole lot's changed from last year. However, yesterday I woke up to friends and family making sure I wasn't in Paris, because if you saw last week's post you saw me in front of the Eiffel Tower. Two days ago, Paris was targeted in a terrorist attack culminating in the deaths of over one hundred people. I didn't think it was prudent to throw up a celebratory blog post while I was shaking and reading news articles about events happening in a place I'd been just a little over a week ago.
So, I might not be as peppy as I'd planned to be (I even wanted to maybe make a video or my own GIFs or something), but I do want to mark the occasion because my life has drastically changed since I got that "WELCOME HOME!" email from MuseItUp Publishing.
First off, I was a wee college sophomore, not the wise junior I am today. I was also at my college home in the States, trying to juggle 20-page papers on Leonardo da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi, presentations on John Everett Millais, editing my book, and surviving the winter winds of New York State. Now I'm currently sitting in my dorm in Nottingham, England. I've seen works by Leonardo in the Louvre, visited castles and ancient manors, mastered British public transportation, eaten my body weight in scones and drank my entire body's water percentage in tea/coffee/cocoa, worn my duvet like a comfy cloak and sat on the floor to devour A Game of Thrones, stood before the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, and made friends from literally all corners of the globe, and even been to Sherwood Forest (that's where I was yesterday, aha!).
I've learned a lot. And, writing-wise, I've improved tenfold.
I still cringe a tiny bit that The Christmas Lights is the first thing I've gotten published. Very rarely do I write flat-out romances, and when everything began to roll into motion, I wondered if I'd have to defend myself. It was...such a girly thing. Romance if often not taken as seriously as other genres for some reason. It seemed like something I'd be mocked for, and I was anxiously I'd be somehow pegged as a romance writer and all the stereotypes that go with it. The Christmas Lights has tons of adventure and the romance is sort of the string that sews the whole thing together, however, and none of the nightmares came to fruition. Nobody cared what kind of book I wrote, really. They were just jazzed that I published a book.
I still remember my dad's excitement when we made/ordered posters and I brought some with me to my college: after emailing one to the library so my book advert would flash across the two large televisions above the main staircase, my friend and I ran around the academic buildings, giggling wildly about movie adaptations and book signings as we taped up posters in the English department, the town library, the town museum, and every bulletin board we had access to. I was so proud to be part of Muse that I ordered a Canadian hockey jersey (their home base is in Quebec) embroidered with a 14 for 2014, with Muse It Up in place of a player's name. It's hanging in my closet back home, and you can bet I'll be throwing it on as soon as I get through the door, because Muse also signed me for THREE OTHER BOOKS. (Okay, two novels and another novella.)
I write. A lot. Which is good for a writer, I suppose. :P Final exams are approaching like a freaking herd of wildebeests, and because I'm an exchange student that means I have to do essays instead of tests so I can be home in time for Spring Semester. It also means I've been up to my eyeballs in scholarly sources and writing about Richard Parkes Bonington, Master of all things Watercolor, widows and courtesans during the Italian Renaissance, and John Sell Cotman for whom, apologies, I haven't had time to do more than pick up sources.
But almost a year ago I got real antsy and sent Muse three manuscripts because they said, once you were published, you could just send them the entire shebang with query letter included. So I sent them (A) Nicholas, a novella-and-also-2013 (I think??)-Christmas-gift-for-my-mom about a redheaded Londoner who steals stories, (B) Shubiao's Girls, a novel about family secrets, Chinese mouse spirits, college and best friends, and (C) Serpents and Flame, the first book in a trilogy I started when I was like 14 and nearly completely reworked because I loved the characters too much to let them rot away in young-teenage-me plot lines.
Then, bursting with excitement on what Muse might say, I waited. And waited. March came, and I waited. College ended and I went to my summer job building semi-truck engines. Still no word. I finally built up the courage to ask if they'd received my manuscripts (I thought that was more polite than writing WHAT DO YOU THINK?? AM I TRASH?? I AM TRASH AND YOU DON'T WANT THEM DO YOU?? I'LL NEVER PUBLISH ANYTHING AGAIN....) and one of the ladies who runs it said, yes we have them, ;). She actually put a winky face and I was dying inside because I had no idea what that meant. A couple weeks passed, however, I got spammed with three "CONGRATULATIONS!!" emails, and my mom burst into tears on our back porch when I told here.
The contracts have been signed and now I play the waiting game until all the edits and fun things like cover art start to happen! Two poems and a short nonfiction piece I wrote are also going to be published by my home campus in our literary magazine. I've come a long way from the girl who thought, "Oh, I should make a website AFTER my novella gets published, because otherwise what will I write about??" and firstly made a Tumblr thinking it was the same thing as an actual writing blog. It's been a crazy transition. Now, I've really got to go because I'm meeting friends at a coffee shop in like half an hour so we can decide where to backpack around the UK after classes end. I'm going to fight for a trip to the Giant's Causeway and Stonehenge. :)