Ten years ago I was in the middle of a grad program in rhetoric theory, wondering when the hell I would finish reading all this crap and start publishing some crap of my own. At the same time, I was working three jobs — assistant director of a school aged child care program for a Title Eight school in East Ridge, Tennessee, graduate assistant to the rhetoric department head, and teacher of two sections of second-level writing at UTC — and living in a townhouse with a couple of roommates. I spent much of my free time (ha!) hanging out at a coffee shop in downtown Chattanooga.* This coffee shop had closed and reopened, and upon reopening it was managed by a guy named Jym who became a friend of mine. On the side, I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
Lots happened between then and now.
Sometime in 2001 Jym and went to NOLA with a couple of friends, and what happened in NOLA didn’t stay in NOLA. We started dating. A year later, we moved in together; six months after that, my cat died. We went to St. Augustine. We adopted Spain the Cat (who sits in my lap this very moment). I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
In 2003 I sold my first book to a micro-press based outside Atlanta, Marietta Publishing. It went badly. To this day, the publisher refuses to tell me how many copies were sold or provide the documentation. He used to claim I owed him money. Last I heard, he could be arm-twisted into admitting that he did owe me a little cash, but he insists that he has no idea how to reach me. In the publisher’s defense, I guess I’m kind of hard to find. I didn’t know what else to do, so I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
Shortly after that book was published, I was contacted by an editor from Tor, Liz Gorinsky — who found my years-old query in a slush pile in an office she was cleaning out (or I believe that’s the story). Warren Ellis gave me a leg up with a recommendation. My then-agent wrestled rights away from Marietta, and in 2005 Tor released a revised, expanded edition of Four and Twenty Blackbirds. Around this same time, I was lucky enough to fall in with Subterranean Press. My previous agent and I parted on friendly terms, and I signed with Jennifer Jackson over at Donald Maass. Six more of my books were published. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
I produced a real estate magazine for about a year, sharing an office with a cranky but awesome saleswoman with a southern drawl that would stop a clock. I worked as head writer/copyeditor for the data aggregate that runs Sears.com for four years; it was a great company with the best damn coworkers a girl could ask for. After hours, I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
Jym and I came and went from several apartments in Chattanooga. In 2006 we got married and moved to Seattle. I went to work for a firm that essentially share-cropped freelance writers for Amazon.com, where I was ultimately told that I couldn’t write about power tools because I was a girl, so I quit. Then I freelanced, mostly writing about power tools for people who correctly figured that four years of writing about Craftsman products made me qualified to do so. That gig eventually dried up. I took proofreading gigs for Bill at Subterranean; and last year he made the arrangement more official, giving me steady work and a salary, as well as the title of associate editor (wee!). I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
I struggled with Seattle. I’m a Gulf Coast girl at heart (never mind the 12 years in Tennessee) and while some people get SAD, I got what could best be described as seasonal psychosis. Winters and springs were especially difficult. People who recommended special lights could expect a punch in the face. However, I found things to love about the place — as the song goes, “with a little help from my friends.” I was befriended by some truly exceptional souls; and of course, Seattle gave me Boneshaker — which simply could not have been written anywhere else, about anyplace else. So I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
Boneshaker became my lucky number seven. I snuck my way into a Consortium (my second, though the first is a secret), and wrote a contribution to the next Wild Cards mosaic. I fought my way up the learning curve of short stories, and sold a few. In addition to the work with Tor and Subterranean, I sold two books to Bantam. Everything on this page happened. Because I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
Jym changed his name (back) to Aric, and went to work for Amazon.com, giving us a measure of stability, fiscal security, and lots of weapons-grade health insurance, thank God. While riding his motorcycle, Aric was hit by an SUV. I came down with a catastrophic eye infection that marked the end of my contacts-wearing days, and the beginning of days wearing glasses that cost more than my laptop. I spent the night in the ER with kidney stones.
I bashed my face in on a Portland sidewalk I got into a knife fight with a pirate. Spainy ate a hair twistie and had it removed the hard way (through an incision in her belly), but that wasn’t covered. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
A few months ago, Aric announced his intention to quit his job at Amazon. After much hoop-jumping and strife, he came to co-own a coffee shop and its roasting arm out in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. His last day at Amazon will be New Year’s Eve. His first day as a full-time small business owner will be January 1. As for me? I’m telling myself that this will be an adventure, and I guess I’ll just write, and write, and write.
Happy New Year, everyone.
Happy New Decade, too.
* I spent much of the mid/late nineties hanging out at this same shop; but as time passed, many of my friends moved on/moved away, and the scene wasn’t quite the same. By the time the shop closed, it was scarcely a shadow of its former self anyway. Even so, when it reopened, a number of us wandered back to sniff around and see what’d become of the place. Thus I began hanging out there again, and thus I met Jym.