Whatever Happened to the Book?

Back in January, I announced that I was going to publish a book to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Draft a Day (now “Draft a Week”) project funded by my stellar supporters at Patreon. But it’s June now, and there’s still no book, so I want to explain. And in order to do that, I need to back up a bit.

It was in a Bradford College computer lab in the autumn of 1997 that I first wrote the name Veronica Silver, typing out sentences in that basement room in between supporting my classmates in my capacity as Work Study Tech Support Guy. In the nearly 20 years between then and now, I’ve written more about Veronica and her family than seems possible. Written and revised, written and revised. And then revised some more. I’ve published excerpts from this body of work in both traditional publications and on my Website. Hell, I’ve even adapted parts of the story for the stage. The novel I am shopping to agents right now, Missing Mister Wingfield, is the culmination of much of this work. A project begun during my grad school days, Wingfield is the book I’ve been saving for my big break. It’s the book I feel certain — and have felt certain, for a long time — will get me into the world of traditional publishing.

What I didn’t realize this January, until I was neck-deep in assembling my theoretical Draft a Day anniversary book, was that I was actually writing the sequel to Wingfield. And if this new book was the sequel, how could I put it out on my own while still trying to get its predecessor traditionally published?

When I sit at this desk and stew over which direction I’d like to see my writing career go — and I stew so hard that Hormel could can and sell my ennui as seasonal brand of Dinty Moore — I am torn between faithfulness to two earlier versions of myself.

The guy who went to college and grad school, who has racked up nearly $50,000 in student loan debt, he deserves to see his name on the spine of a book below some trademarked house or bird or tree. Or maybe even a kangaroo. That guy, when he walks into a bookstore, he can’t help but stare at the crack between the Mary Higgins Clarks and the Tom Clancys and want to push those tomes aside to make room for his own.

But then there’s the kid who wasn’t afraid to put out his own comic books in high school, the kid who enlisted his dad to make the photocopies and the rest of his family to help him collate and staple. Don’t I owe that kid something, too? He’s come out twice as an adult, during years when employment was uncertain or absent altogether (here and here), and he’s the part of me that pushes the Publish button every time I send something out to live or die on the World Wide Web. I love that kid. I don’t want to lose that kid.

For now, I’m letting the guy with $50,000 in student loan debt win, the guy who took a financial gamble and is still waiting patiently (though not patiently enough, I’m sure many would say) to see if his ticket might be a winner. Not a jackpot winner, but maybe a sweet enough earner to allow him to pay off the smallest of the credit cards and take his wife out to dinner. The book I was intending to put out in January, I’m saving that for traditional publication now too. It just seems like the best decision at the moment.

But the kid, the kid is pointing to the calendar and saying that 2017 is the year I turn 40 and the year this story of mine turns 20. The kid is pointing and whispering in my ear, trying to convince me that next year is the year to bury the old guy’s dream in the ground and to give the kid another shot. “Anniversaries, man!” is what he’s saying to me. “Isn’t it time to just get this stuff out into the world?”

“I’m trying, kid,” is all I can say for now. “I’m trying.”