Unmitigated panic. Unrelenting fear. Ulcer-inducing worry.
A year ago my book was launching and I should have been on cloud nine. I was realizing a life-long dream at a time when many my age popped Lipitor. I was edging close to a sedative habit.
Looking back to my novel debut last January, terror defined my anticipatory state-of-being. How would I bear bad reviews? (Weeping. Definitely weeping.) What if I got no reviews? (More weeping) What if no one came to my book launch party? What if there was a blizzard that night? What if the food ran out? What if I couldn't find a dress, the bookseller forgot to come, and I got truth-telling drunk?
Would I look fat in the pictures?
The hardest part was facing the unknown: What if I behaved badly? What if I made life-altering mistakes? I depended on books for knowledge and though there were many on my offering advice on writing, selling, promotion, grammar, and even the giving and taking of criticism, I've couldn't find Miss Manners guide to launching a book (which was desperately needed as the self-absorbed monsters in my head screamed me, me, me, like a collection of over-waxed beauty queens.
Finding no rule book, I turned to the policies carried by Moses and dribbled them with the good, bad, and clumsy I witnessed in myself and in others. Now, with the paperback, another me, me, me about to consume, I remind myself of my Writer's Commandments Upon the Occasion of Launching a Book:
1. You shall have no other gods before: Remember thy agent: she who brought you into this world. She who rescued you from the sucking sound of mud, dragging you by the strength of her strong motherly arms, and introduced you to your editor and publishing house. Consider her always in your decisions. Hide nothing.
2. Beware blasphemous words : Remember the flood of clients thy publicist is juggling. Swallow thy rage at not showing up in People, Entertainment, New York Times Book Review, Washington Post. Thy publicist must spread her love wide. Suck it up and stand in line as the grateful child thou must (pretend to) be. In other words, be careful to whom you complain.
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain: Never speak ill of thy publisher or editor, for it shows naught but crass ingratitude and will forever boomerang back. If thou spreadest evil on the Internet, thou are too stupid to deserve a second chance.
4. And on the seventh day, rest:Take a break or thine arm will turn to stone and thou shall spend any advance money on thine masseuse and ibuprofen.
5. Honor your father and your mother: Drink not of thine own Kool-Aid. Thine husbands, wives, children, and siblings have lives they consider as important as thine own life, and are the stars of their own show. Treat not your friends and family as your coterie. Do not expect them to read every word you write, unless you plan to admire every database they build, every car they fix, and every throat culture for which they swab.
6. You shall not murder: Thou shalt not kill thy friendships by expecting that thy book release is the equal of their baby's birth, or by forgetting their upcoming nuptials because of time spent Googling thyself, or trying make-up techniques for thy next author photo.
7. You shall not commit adultery: Thou must not imagine lying in the consciousness of another writer's agent, editor, or publicist, no matter how grandiose the descriptions used by fellow-authors in describing efforts made on their behalf; one must dance with the one that brought you at all times.
8. You shall not steal: Upon reading a brilliant tweet, retweet. Do not take that URL and claim as thine own.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor: Speak well of thy writer-friends. They are your writer sisters and brothers. Bringing thy friend down will not bring thee up.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's: Thou shalt not compare the Amazon rankings of thy sisters and brothers with thyself, for in that lie only twisted guts.
And of course, there is Commandment 11: Never miss an opportunity to sneak in a bit of promotion: (The Murderer's Daughters, the story of sisters who witness their father murder their mother and struggle with the emotional aftermath for the next thirty years, will release in paperback on February 1.)