I can hardly believe it myself. Six weeks is all that remains, and then Eleanor will arrive in the world. January 12, that's the date. The next day is my father's birthday, and the day after that I'll be at Powell's Books to read a little, talk a little, sign a little.
Just six weeks.
You might be surprised just how much is going on in the weeks leading up to the release day. I'm surprised, and I know I'm only seeing a fraction of it. My U.S. publisher assigned me a publicist, and I hear from her a few times a week about things that are happening behind the scenes, or that they're arranging. Little online bursts of activity here and there, details of real-world events to be sorted out. And while all of this is happening, my U.K. publisher is wrapping up the final jacket design for the book. That edition will arrive in Australia first, as I understand it, in February, and then throughout the remaining U.K. territories in March.
Even this close to publication day, I'm still not sure I've completely grasped the notion that this is happening. 2016 looks like it'll feel quite different from 2015.
Two weeks ago, I joined a couple of dozen other authors, all from various places around the northwest, to sign books and meet readers at Powell's Books. (This is, unless anything else pops up, the last event of the year for me.) I shared a table with Jason Hough, a science fiction author that I met at the same event the prior year. Most of the books on my half of the table were giveaways: a stack of advance copies of Eleanor, various short story paperbacks I'd brought. I had a few copies of The Dark Age on hand, which Squish signed with me (the story is dedicated to her).
(She makes a great Don Corleone face.) She's been signing that one since the beginning. Back then, her signatures were little more than Crayola squiggles. Then they became tiny faces. Now she prints her name below my own inscription. For this reason alone, I love to have these short stories out in the world.
Her fourth birthday is coming up soon, and while she'll get other tactile gifts that she can appreciate at this age, I've also commissioned a family portrait from the exceptionally talented Sarah Mensinga, an author/artist friend of ours. Today Sarah sent me the final artwork, and it's simply stunning. Check this gorgeousness out:
I'm really just blown away. I was so struck by how perfectly Sarah captured our personalities and our likenesses that I didn't even notice, at first, the manuscript pages and yarn and knitting needles scattered among the swirling leaves.
So: six weeks left until publication day, and meanwhile, I've been focused on Limbs, or whatever this next novel will be called. Back in September, with around 80,000 words written, I found myself stalling when I sat down to write a new scene. Something wasn't quite coming together the way I'd hoped it might. In years past, I'd have agonized over this, but all of the careful determination that went into Eleanor taught me a few things, and one thing in particular: that when that nagging feeling arrives, there's no reason to panic, or force a solution. So I put Limbs aside, and did other things, and then, just a couple of weeks ago, the solution arrived. Past Jason would have hated the solution, because it required me to completely re-outline and re-structure the story, adding a second point-of-view to the narrative, and splitting the novel into parallel stories. But present Jason is exhilarated by this. Eleanor also taught me that when you chip away at a story for years, you throw out almost as much as—or more than—you put into it. Those 80,000 words aren't all going out the window, though. They'll be worked into the new novel in slivers, here and there, and what doesn't work will be disposed of, and that's okay.
I can say that this novel seems to be skidding towards Charlie Kaufman territory, however, and that's very exciting to me. The things that weren't working before...well, I figured out why, and now they seem to be working quite well. Humming, even.
And that's enough stalling for tonight. Back to the book.