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Bringing out Baby

  Finally, after all those years as a faceless, nameless writer drone for the federal bureaucracy someone published a book with my name on the cover. Two books, actually, in the space of a single month: Illumina: the Art of J.P. Targete and Strange Pleasures II.

Yippee! Yippee! Yippee!

Wait a minute. I can't behave like a first grader on the last day of school in public. I need to maintain my image as a single-minded pursuer of scoops, good grammar and the active voice. What would Katherine Graham do? What did she do when her book hit the shelves?

Who cares?

Book: strange pleasures II
For those of you who've yet to experience the joy of a cover credit on a real, "live" book you can use to beat nay sayers into a bloody pulp, let me tell you, it is all that and a bag of Doritos® too. Forget dignity and cynicism and every other affectation of adulthood. Both the acceptance letter for Illumina and "Most Dead Bodies in a Confined Space" (the short story anthologized in Strange Pleasures II) prompted happy dances, squeals of joy and altogether insufferable behavior for weeks at a time.

Periodic outbreaks of pre-publication insanity affected my faculties for months afterward. For example, I know I read my contracts carefully. I even requested and obtained needed corrections in some of the contract language. But please, don't ask me what the contracts say. I'd need to look them up. Me, the original Madame Memory, scourge of Trivial Pursuit(r) players and regulation writers up and down the East Coast.

Although I deal with Web publication contracts all the time -- both as accepting editor and impecunious interviewer -- the strength of my reaction to those book contracts shocked me to my toes. It gave me a whole new perspective on the folks who sign away their rights without a whimper. I suspect they didn't see the words on the page. The thrill of reading your very own book contract simply short-circuits the analytical portion of your brain.

The sense of unreality fostered by the delay between acceptance and publication also threw me for a loop. In the case of Illumina, both J.P. and I went through more galleys than either of us thought possible. The process took months. J.P. and I literally held the promise of the book in our hands time and time again. Yet none of it seemed real until Chrysalis Books and Prime Books sent our first author copies.

On one level, it still doesn't. That can't really be me in the Amazon catalogue. That must be some other Jean Marie Ward who just happened to write the same book about the same artist for the same publisher.

Even so, receiving author copies sent me dancing around the room again. Fortunately, my husband, office and friends learned from their previous experience with Hyperactive Editor. They quickly sedated me with champagne and whispered sweet nothings like: "What's your promotion plan?" and "A writer is only as good as her last numbers…"


Not to mention, what the heck do I do for an encore?

Jean Marie Ward

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