I happened to glance at the calendar on the way to bed and noticed that it's now August 7th. Very early on August 7th, but the 7th nonetheless. Therefore just one month away from the pub date of Shock and Awe--and I'm now so savvy about matters literary that I no longer think a 'pub date' is meeting someone in a bar for a pint of John Courage.
For those who haven't been through the process before, I've got to tell you that the lead-up to publication is rather odd. There's all sorts of hurry and consultation in the editing and copyediting phase, and the book gets sent off to printing in a bit of a rush...
But then? Well, not all that much goes on while the book is at the printers. There's some discussion of publicity plans, etc., but without printed matter in hand, not much really happens. Somewhere out there ink drums are being loaded and presses are spinning, I'm sure, but from this end it feels as though the message has already been stuffed into the bottle, corked up, and flung beyond the line of crashing surf. By now it has drifted so far you aren't sure if you see the glint of sun on glass or on the water. Too late to change the font. Too late to change that unfortunate 'which' clause. Too late to change your mind, your address, your name.
Too Late the Phalarope. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) Voyager drifts toward Jupiter, and we can only hope the attitude jets fire properly when we pass into orbit.
Not that passing into orbit will probably amount to much either. Okay, the pub date for the recent Harry Potter was a major event, but I've been around a few others, and little happens that doesn't happen on any other day. Sure, a week or two prior to pub date some of the reviewers sell their Advance Review Copies on Amazon, so you can buy used copies of the book before it's even been published, but on pub date itself all that usually occurs is that some copies may be put out on the shelves. Or not. Sometimes Barnes & Noble doesn't get around to unpacking the shipment.
Show business isn't like this. Even in amateur theatre productions, there is a steady build-up of activity until--ta-da!--Opening Night! Or unknown artists coming up to their first little gallery show are dashing about helping hang paintings or type out obscure captions and attributions, or at least assisting in cutting huge bricks of cheese into cubes and spearing them onto toothpicks.
Or think of all the silly turmoil and rush leading up to a college graduation, culminating in that march across the stage to shake the hand of the Dean. (Of course, after you get off the stage you discover that your diploma folder is empty because you still owe $63.42 in unpaid library fines, but until that point it's a rather excellent build-up.)
Writing just doesn't work like that. Don Marquis, of Archy and Mehitabel fame, was (among his many other accomplishments) a poet. He noted, "Publishing a book of verse is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for an echo."
It's even odder when said publication is taking place in another country. It becomes rather theoretical, like when your lover is on a long trip: Hmm, 10:30 here, they're 14 hours ahead, so I guess she arrived in Bangkok an hour ago...probably in a taxi by now...do you suppose it's sunny or raining?
On average I suppose a novel makes more noise than a book of verse, but even then it couldn't amount to more than a handful of rose petals. At best.
Still, if you happen to be in these parts a month from now, drive by my house. I'll be out front by the cactus, with my good ear cupped in the direction of Arizona, listening intently.