Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bull's eye and the New York Times

It's been a crazy week. I am now home from my Idaho tour (yay Idaho!), and will post a recap of that later. With pictures. There are a 372 photos of the trip for me to sort through. So yeah, later.

But let me tell you about Wednesday. Wednesday was one of those pinch-me days. Wednesday I was on cloud surreal.

I am still on cloud surreal. . .

So, Wednesday I was up at my dad's mountain house, which is smack between Challis and Mackay, Idaho. It's the middle of nowhere, high desert with a gorgeous view of Mt. Borah, the tallest mountain in Idaho, and a lot of snow. It's so quiet up there I swear I can hear my thoughts rattle when they bounce around in my head. It's also a wonderland for my son, who gets to ride the tractor and ATVs and sled down the perfectly-pitched-for-sledding driveway and play with my dad's four Labrador retrievers. Heaven is Pop-Pop's house!

View from my dad's front porch
We started the day with a fine breakfast that my dad cooked: scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast made with homemade bread. I was in heaven, too. I'm generally in heaven when somebody else cooks.

I had been up all night coughing with a nasty cold, and the baby had been up all night because I kept waking her up with my coughing, so we were slow to get moving that day. I was deliriously tired. We lazed around in the morning and then, around noonish, decided to go sledding. I bundled up the kids and outside we went. Fun times were had by all. Even the baby got in on the action.

It's all fun and games until you crash into some sagebrush. . .
We came in and put the kids down for their naps. Then my dad and I went back out. My dad was going to teach me how to shoot a pistol.

Yep, you heard me right.

Now, I've never had any interest in guns. Like, ever. My dad is a bit of a gun fanatic, truth be told, and I grew up watching him clean his rifles and fill shells at the kitchen table and head off into the wilderness intent on killing a poor defenseless deer every fall, so I'm comfortable around guns, to an extent, but I never had the desire to shoot one. I like Bambi.

But this year I have a novel simmering on the back burner (which I have not allowed myself to write a single word of because I need to finish Book 3 of the Unearthly series first, but I have taken copious notes) where my main character is quite the sharpshooter with a six-shooter. And she needs to be. And that's about all I can tell you at this point.

So I decided I needed to know how it felt to shoot a pistol.

My dad was all too happy to oblige. He set up the target and cleaned the gun and taught me how to load it. We marched out into his backyard (remember that we are out in the middle of nowhere) and he taught me how to hold the gun, how to position my feet, how to aim.

Six bullets.

The first shot I hit the paper with the target on it. Barely. I was pleased that I hit it at all. My heart was going pretty steady just holding the loaded gun.

Second shot I missed. Not sure what I hit. Bah.

Third shot I hit the paper again.

Fourth shot I actually hit the target. I was feeling pretty spiffy about myself.

Fifth shot I missed the target completely. Double bah.

"Squeeze the trigger slowly," my dad advised.

I cocked the gun. Steadied my hand. Squinted at the target. And slowly, slowly, squeezed the trigger.

And hit the bull's eye.

Up to that point I wasn't sure if I liked this gun-shooting thing, but I'll tell you, it was quite the thrill to hit the bull's eye. I was channeling my sharpshooter character. I couldn't wait to get inside and write some notes about how the gun bucked in my hand, the way it smelled, how it felt to aim at something and hit it, and hit it perfectly.

I was all aglow when we came inside.

And then: there was a barrage of texts from my agent waiting on my cell. Texts like, Have you read your email yet? and I will call you as soon as I'm off the subway.

Oh boy. My heart really started going then. I turned immediately to the computer with the tar-slow-satellite-internet and waited for my email account to load.

It was a long wait. A nail-biting wait.

And lo and behold, an email from my editor at HarperCollins. Hallowed is #10 on the Children's Chapter Books bestseller list of the NEW YORK TIMES.

Congrats, my editor wrote. You are now a New York Times Bestselling Author.

Good thing I was sitting down.

Right then my phone rang, my agent off the subway, and we laughed and I may have even cried a little and my dad brought me a glass of champagne.

I've never been one to put too much stock in labels, but what I kept coming back to in those first few moments, again and again, was that this makes it so much more likely than I will be able to continue to write, beyond the Unearthly series, beyond this year or next year, beyond one book or two, but for my lifetime. I can be a writer, I thought. For good.

I made a bunch of calls, one of the first to my best friend, Lindsey.

She said, "Well, I hope I can still be your friend. . ."

Me: "Huh? What?"

Lindsey: "You're an all-important writer now. You're going to need new friends, of course. Important friends."

Me: "Well, I've heard that those New York Times besties are pretty great. . ."

Lindsey: "You see?"

Me: "But I think I can still squeeze you into my top five friends. If you're nice to me. . ."

We laughed and she said she was proud of me. Everyone kept saying how proud they were of me, and I felt proud of myself, too. Proud for being able to write Hallowed even though it was crazy-hard and maybe the most stressed I'd ever been in my life. Proud that I'd made it through. Proud that I'd written some pretty good stuff there. And also grateful and humbled and amazed and knocked over.

It felt pretty amazing.

Like hitting the bull's eye.


Jana said...

Congratulations to you and HALLOWED!!! You both totally deserve it! :D

Anonymous said...

Congrats, Cynthia!! You are really amazing, and I can hardly wait to read you're next series, let alone the final book on Unearthly!!

Sara said...

congrats, thats awesome!!! the hard work paid off, Hallowed was AMAZING!

The Reading Enchantress said...

Congratulations, Cynthia! You're a New York Times Bestseller! YAY! That is so exciting and you totally deserve it! I cannot wait to read more from you for years to come!

patty said...

Congratulations! You and Hallowed definitely deserve it. I'm only halfway through and loving it. I keep having to stop so I can laugh and re-read the funny bits :)

Olivia said...

Congrats :D it was totally deserved :D I love the unearthly series and I can't wait to hear more about the new book :D xxx <3 xxx

Vetsy said...

That sounds great, Congratulations!! How exciting for you.

Unknown said...

I just finished reading Hallowed and I wanted to say that I love the Unearthly series! Congrats! I can't wait for the next book ;)

Goat Girl said...

I'm no gun-nut, but...

Ahhh! You didn't specify what caliber of pistol! A .22 is going to shoot a lot differently than, say, an 8mm.

Hopefully your dad started you off with a .22 caliber. Those pretty much have zero recoil. After that point you'll have to try a variety of different stuff. Was it an automatic or a revolver?

My personal preference in pistols is a big, heavy revolver. The heavier the pistol, the less it will recoil. Plus, with revolvers, you don't have to fiddle with all the magazines and safeties and potential gun jams.

And then there's the consideration of if you want your character to be a sharpshooter with a pistol or a rifle. Rifles have so much more going on and would probably be a more believable gun for a sharpshooter (the pistol would be a backup/shorter range weapon) So that's a whole 'nother ball of wax (a scope versus iron sights, bolt-action, again with a caliber, etc etc)

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for your next series!

I absolutley loved Hallowed. It almost made me cry. Almost. Somehow I held in there.

But congratulations on your success. I really do hope you keep writing because you kick ass.

Saba said...

Wow congratulations!!!! I love love love Unearthly and Hallowed!!!! I hope I can be an author like you someday!

Rachel Author of Violet said...

I'm SO not surprised that you made it to the TOP TEN!!!! You so deserve it! That is how awesome your books are!

Liz said...

Congratulations! You deserve it - Hallowed was an amazing book!!! I love the series!!! :D

Penny said...

Another so-happy-for-you-and-loving-the-series-even-though-I-am-an-adult coming in to say congratulations.

I was reading Unearthly in the most perfect location, next to rippling creek with the sound of cicadas vibrating in my ears. It was eerie. Even more beautiful was the platypus I saw swimming in the creek once I'd finished the book! Lucky us Aussies read fast when enthralled in a fantastic storyline.

I can't wait for book three. No pressure though. Thanks for making angels seem far more real and attractive than I’d ever anticipated.

Christin said...

Congratulations! I literally ate Hallowed up :D