Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Like a Virgin

It’s been one of those weeks. One of those two weeks, actually, when the business of writing kept interfering with the actual writing. E-mails back and forth, to and from agents (and yes, that’s plural; I have two, which can be interesting at times). E-mails to editors and publishers. Letters from publishers to agents. Conference calls with agents, then more e-mails to agents, publishers, editorial directors, and editor. Plans to be made, roads to be chosen. In the midst of this flurry of activity, there were website decisions to make, all which seem vastly important, but in the great scheme of world events (can we say war, continued Gulf Coast suffering, drought and babies dying in Africa?) they aren’t worth nearly the amount of time I’ve spent fussing over them.

Then three days ago memo-to-me began sending reminders that I was scheduled to blog today. The reason, when I signed up for this date three months ago, was to announce that today’s the day IMPULSE is officially published. I say officially because according to reports from readers and my own sweetie, it started being scattered across the country last week. But all this business stuff had me drained. Forget about writing on my upcoming book. I had no idea what to blog. It seemed a little tacky just to tell people to BUY MY BOOK! NOW!

As of late yesterday afternoon I still had no idea what I was going to do. About anything, but I’m big on prioritizing and obviously 2 Be Read had just shot to the top of my to-do list. Then the UPS truck pulled up in my driveway. I order a lot of stuff on line – books, scrapbook paper, gifts for grandbabies and friends, etc. – so I waited for the driver to come to the front door. But instead he took the package to the garage, which – sigh – meant it must be for my sweetie, who, since he took way early retirement, has been hand-building wooden boats in two of the three stalls of our garage. Not model boats, either. But real ones. This is actually my fault for having sent him – just as a joke! – the plans for a pirogue I found while researching BLUE BAYOU. Well, he took it seriously. Which is okay because the grandbabies love riding in it whenever they come to visit. Next was a cedar strip canoe he auctioned off to raise money for the Tennessee School for the Deaf. Last year’s boat was a kayak. And this year he’s working on a yawl. Y’all. :)

But I digress. . .

Anyway, needless to say, wood and Fiberglas and all sorts of special boat building material and tools are all the time arriving at our house. So, deciding that I wouldn’t get anything fun to open, I tried to go back to work. Actually I went back to web stuff to announce the contest winners for the IMPULSE publication countdown. (And what made me decide to do that anyway? Doesn’t it now mean I’ll have to stop writing to send out seven books with nice little friendly hand-written notes?)

Then my boatbuilder came upstairs with the cartons of books that had just been delivered from Simon and Schuster. And my day/week/world changed. It was suddenly Christmas in May. With me warning him not to cut the dog’s nose, he carefully opened one of the cartons with his Swiss Army knife. There the books lay, in all their shiny blue splendor. I took one out. Admired it. Checked to make sure they had, indeed, changed the spine labeling from romance to romantic suspense, as I’d requested when I’d gotten the first run of covers. I gingerly opened it to check the dedication, which was really important to me and I’ve been worried for months that it might get left out. But no. . . It was there.

Then I sat down at my desk and ignoring the dinging of my e-mail alert signaling yet more obnoxious business stuff, I began reading. And yes, I am one of those who enjoys reading my books. By the time they arrive, I can read more like a reader. Or at least as a writer who’s forgotten so much of the book I can be surprised. And occasionally, I’ll stop and go, “Wow. Did I write that? Not too shabby, girl.”

I’ve written 96 books. Named 192 heroes and heroines. (I ran out of original names a long time ago, but I figure if George Foreman can name all five of his sons George, I can have two Jacks. Or a couple Kates.) Twenty-three years ago, when the first box of books arrived, it seemed like a miracle. That I could actually be holding, in my very two hands, a story that had first been born in the swirling mists of my mind. A story that I could now share with the world. (Or at least the romance readers of the world.) Fortunately, enough people liked that story, and the ones that followed, that I’ve been able to build a very nice career on my Jacks and Kates and Nicks and Erins.

But every time that box shows up at my door, and my sweetie folds back the brown flaps, that old Madonna song starts singing in my head, because as I reach down and take out a copy, and run my fingertips over the foil, smell the aroma of freshly printed paper, I’m swept right back to 1983, and feel just like a publishing virgin. Touched for the very first time.


Terry Z McDermid said...

Wow! Great to know the magic lives on, book after book. Like you, I also read through my books, which are almost new to me after the amount of time needed for the publishing process. I'll be amazed at a phrase or chuckle at a scene, tearing up at others. Maybe that's what we need to remember, that the writing is good enough, if we can trust ourselves to let go of that inner editor and just write what's in our hearts.

Thanks for sharing your special day!

Gina Black said...

JoAnn--Thank you for this delicious awwwww moment. I can't wait to feel like a virgin again. ;)


Ellen said...

I received my copy of IMPULSE in the mail yesterday (I'm guessing early). The cover is lovely, as is the dedication.

Your stories never fail to intrigue me, JoAnn. I can't wait to read this one! :)

Allison Brennan said...

I remember when I first joined PASIC all of a year ago, the first newsletter I got had Pat Kay's column about enjoying every moment. You obviously live that, and I'm going to try to live it too!

JoAnn Ross said...

Allison & Terry,

It's admittedly not easy in this crazy business to stop and enjoy the moments. But, as Pat said so brilliantly, it's important to try. Fortunately, the arrival of books is one of those things that just always gives me a big kick. Though I do lose a writing day to reading. One time I started reading at the kitchen counter, where I'd opened the box, and two hours later, I was still standing there, reading away, which wasn't real comfortable since I was barefoot and that house had a brick kitchen floor.

Ellen -- Thanks for buying Will and Faith's story. I'm tickled you enjoyed the dedication.

And Gina -- The bad part about the virginity deal is that %#^*# song is STILL running through my head. LOL

L. Faye Hughes said...


First, thanks for sticking that Madonna song in my head. I'll be humming it all day. LOL.

Second, congrats on the arrival of your new baby! (96? Did you say 96!?) I can't wait to read IMPULSE!