Back when I was just a nervous, unhappy kiddo, I went to a neurologist for migraines and anxiety. Faced with twelve year old me, he happily explained that some people's brains are primed to be more sensitive because it helped detect and fight off saber tooth tigers. All my noggin helps me do is lose sleep over the fact that I'm certain everyone I know is mad at me, but hey: go off about big cats who probably just wanted to snuggle.
As I've grown up, anxiety, migraines, and a fun addition of depression has continued to color my thinking, and even though I've happily found the right prescription and dose of an SSRI, my brain is what it is, and it does what it does.
In this case, it wrote Cattle Stop.
Publishing a book means taking a story that is solely mine and pushing it out into the world for reader's excitement and delight - and criticism. In so many ways, The Place Between was my safety blanket through my doctorate program: fun to work on in the evenings, an escape to daydream about when I was overwhelmed, and a project in equal length, duration, and difficulty to my dissertation that I absolutely love-love-loved.
That meant that when a friend sent me a link to an open proposal call for manuscripts, I wasn't ready to let it go. Ned and Abbot and Peggy and Baxter were mine and I didn't want them edited, adjusted, touched, or even read. It wasn't so much that I couldn't handle the idea of feedback as it was that I was simply uninterested in it. The characters were mine to play with, the universe was my world to inhabit, and I didn't feel like sharing.
But, that open proposal call sure was tempting. So I figured hey, it's summer, I have a bit of free time on my hands, why not whip something up? If nothing else, it's a good experience to go through writing a synopsis, a query letter, and dipping my toe into the traditional publishing world. This open proposal call didn't require an agent, so I was even able to simply send in my work and see what happened. Even better, I only needed to provide a couple thousand words of the manuscript, or the first few chapters, so I excitedly and nervously threw together a handful of my favorite tropes and sent it off.
The good news: they asked to see the full manuscript. The bad news: I then had to write the full manuscript. The thank-god-academia-gave-me-this-skill news: I can write really, really fast when up against a deadline. By springtime, I was sending Cooper and Whit off to the publisher, accompanied by Sadie and Socks and two handfuls of crossed fingers.
As we know now: it was rejected. I was, to put it mildly, disappointed.
Though when one door closes, etc etc, because this whole process left me with two invaluable things. One: a finished manuscript. Two: an interest and enthusiasm for self-publishing. Coming from a background of fandom and fanfic, I'd faced plenty of gatekeeping in the professional world of academics, but never for my creative writing and I loved the idea of a similar ease of just hitting 'publish' that the indie track provides. Sure, throw in the need for a cover design, understanding advertising, building an author brand, and more, but being self-published instead of traditionally put the direction in my hands, right where my little anxious self best likes it.
So Cattle Stop was, in so many ways, the impetus for this incredibly journey I've found myself on. I'm not sure TPB would have ever seen the light of day had I not ventured down the path that led me to that manuscript call, and eventually to the realization that I didn't need a traditional publishing house, and agent, or anything other than an Amazon account to make my childhood dream of being an author come true. (Side note: Amazon has, shall we say, some issues. But one thing it has done is to open the world of indie publishing to all and for that, I'll be ever grateful - and still remain ever critical because seriously Jeff Bezos, why you gotta be like this, man.)
This left me with a quandary of: two nearly finished manuscripts and a decision about which one to publish first. I went back and forth and back again, before settling on TPB. For one, it was slightly more finished. Two, I was closer to letting it grow from being my little baby into a book that could stand on its own. And three, I had written it first and felt like it deserved its time to shine. So ten months after TPB came out, here we are with Cattle Stop hitting the shelves. In so many ways, Cattle Stop is the little sibling, who came into the world in TPB's shadow and yet is so much its own book and its own world with its own characters populating its pages. I'm proud of it and I'm proud of me, but most of all I'm proud of where this authorial adventure is heading. While the Sun Shine's (Cattle Stop's sequel) is coming out so, so soon, I have another manuscript int he works, an outline for yet another draft of a novel, a series outlined and waiting for me - and I have all of you, who have found your way to Ned and Abbot and Whit and Cooper and everyone else who is yet to come. I'll remain my worried, anxious self in so many ways, but Cattle Stop is not one of them, out there now in the world to be read and enjoyed and loved by readers the same way I poured love into writing it.