You can only have one first and Lucinda at the Window was mine. It was the first novel I wrote, and on the 20th of September, it will be the first to reach publication. All this week, I plan to present a process log detailing the writing of Lucinda at the Window, its path to publication, and how my first has influenced me as a writer.
I have a simple spread sheet that I use to keep track of submissions. The first column is labeled TITLE. The second is PUBLISHER, which could be more descriptively labeled as “Editor/Agent”. The next two columns are for DATE SENT and RESPONSE DATE. Columns E and F are labeled ACCEPT and REJECT and every response is accounted for by three capital Xs in one of these columns.
By 2007, I hadn’t given up on Lucinda at the Window, but I wasn’t working as hard to resubmit after a round of rejection slips. This was mainly a function of being a busier writer. After finishing Lucinda, I did what any writer does: I started another book. By 2007, I had written two sprawling, flawed fantasy novels (that have been fodder for a later novels) and a tight contemporary horror novel (which I am still submitting to publishers and agents), and in 2004, Eric and I started work on a loose series of books set in on a non-Earth world. The process of researching markets for Lucinda, sending out submissions, and receiving rejections was no less painful than at the beginning, but it had become a necessary routine. Searching through my LiveJournal archive, I find that Lucinda is mentioned at least quarterly no matter what else I am doing. Therefore, it came as a shock when Kristofer Stamp of StoneGarden.net Publishing contacted me on September 19, 2007 with a contract offer. As one of the “new” internet-connected publishers, I had sent a complete manuscript to Stone Garden along with my cover email. The contract was attached. And I was flummoxed.
I didn’t tell anyone for a day. Eric had recently returned to school to begin work on a master’s degree. He was very busy with homework that week, and I didn’t want to distract him. I am also a bit of a pessimist and, like a newly pregnant woman, I didn’t want to get people (or myself) excited until I had decided nothing would go wrong. I emailed Andy on the 20th and told Eric later that day. I took a week to contemplate the contract, and to have Eric and Andy look it over. I sent it back on September 28th.
Then I waited. Kris Stamp had let me know that the docket for 2007 and 2008 was full. Lucinda wouldn’t be published until 2009. It tried to be very zen about the wait. 2008’s recession was slightly alarming, but I could see how a smaller publisher might be outside of the problems bigger houses and booksellers were having. I parried questions about progress from family and friends with the phrase, “I’m not going to worry about it until 2009.” My plan was to query in January of ’09 if I hadn’t heard anything. There was no need. Minnette Meador, working as an editor for Stone Garden, contacted me in December. We bounced files back and forth with editing suggestions and changes. It was a good process, though cringe-worthy. I was revisiting a novel I had written nearly a decade before.
In June, while I was visiting my family in Nebraska, Kris Stamp uploaded the cover art for the third quarter novels. Including Lucinda at the Window. Slowly, measure by measure, what began as three pages of “assigned” writing had become book.
[Tomorrow: What I’ve Learned]