Coming Up for Air

It’s been close to two months since I’ve written anything here, and I’ve been busy with a lot of things writing-related and not writing-related. It’s early to mid February now, and in Michigan the sky is staying lit until after 6pm. There’s a new president in the White House, vaccine rollout has started, I finished some giant writing projects, and I feel as if I can finally come up for air.

In late December, a massive (non-Jane) writing and editing project took up most of my time. It was due on the 31st. I don’t really celebrate Christmas, but my wife does, and after I had worked a confusing amount of unclear hours all fall, we agreed that I would take a few days off for Christmas. I managed four – two of which were the weekend anyway, but that’s how I roll these days. Even Saturdays and Sundays have to be planned as days off in advance. It was good to focus on my family and clear my head, but soon it was the 26th, and I was staring down five days to format and proofread a 350-page manuscript.

I believe in sticking to deadlines. I always have. There’s a culture in writing that deadlines are malleable or that it’s noble to miss them for the sake of perfecting your art, but in reality missing deadlines ruins publishing schedules that have been set nearly a year in advance. So my co-editor and I made that December 31st deadline. We pressed send on the email and celebrated.

But not for long because I was facing another major writing project and deadline in just two weeks. In the middle of working on that manuscript, my editor at Bold Strokes had returned edits on The Queen Has a Cold. We also had reports from two sensitivity readers. Feedback from all three of them had to be wrangled into the book revisions, and at that point I only had two weeks to get it all done. Thankfully, the changes had been fomenting in the back of my mind for some time, so I didn’t need to ruminate a lot. But I did need to spend hours and hours each day frantically making those changes in Word.

You won’t know what the first version of The Queen Has a Cold looked like, the version I sent to Hans Lindahl back in June before turning the manuscript in to my editor and publisher. And you won’t know the second version, the one my editor and sensitivity readers had. But trust me when I say the changes were massive and greatly improved the story. I think readers will find Remy to be a complex person, torn between their desire for independence and their sense of duty, attracted to Sam and bound by the knowledge that nothing serious can ever come of the relationship because of Remy’s royal status. Sam has changed, too. She’s still a spitfire, wonderfully sensitive to Remy’s sex and gender but sometimes unable to tamper her sense of social justice for the sake of diplomacy. She’ll always say what’s morally right, even when it would be better in the moment if she didn’t. But in the final version of the book, she has a little more power in her relationship with Remy. That’s hard to achieve when one person has more money, is royalty, and speaks the native language she doesn’t speak. There’s a great moment between the two of them when she reminds herself and Remy that she’s in equal control of their relationship. It’s sexy and fun, and I hope you like that scene when you read it.

The Queen Has a Cold required a week of near all-nighters to get done on time, but I managed to send it back to my editor at 2am one night, just two hours after it was due. I technically missed the deadline, but under the circumstances, I was proud of how much I did in such a short time.

And, once again, had little time for celebration because I had a 6,000-word essay (another non-Jane project) due in three days. Another week of frantic writing and all-nighters, and that was sent off.

Finally, it was late January, and I was left wondering where the time had gone. 2021 had come, and I had watched riots, impeachment, and an inauguration, I had put myself on the covid-19 vaccine waitlist, and I had completed these giant writing and editing projects. I felt as if the axes hanging over my head had finally been taken down.

I don’t think I’ve fully processed the end of the Trump era. Sometimes I wake up and still forget President Biden is already in office. (Didn’t it feel like the transition period was especially long this year?) But slowly, I am realizing I can exhale. I’ve finished 2020 and started 2021 with a lot of good work, and the sun is slowly rising on what promises to be a productive and healthier year.

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