Thrill of book publishing remains, whether it’s the first or the 14th

It’s the end of a journey. I’m breathing a sigh of relief. There’s no more work to be done. It’s time to let it stand on its own two feet.

Wait a minute. Books don’t have feet.

Creampuff of the County front coverToday is a big day as Creampuff of the County debuts for readers. It is the culmination of nine months of work, imagination and the occasional sleepless night. It is staring at the manuscript until the words swirl like an Oreo milkshake, and I have to make myself eat and/or drink. All that is done, and now the book stands before the public, ready to sink or swim depending on how good of a job I did crafting a believable and entertaining tale.

Creampuff of the County is my 14th book, and it is the sixth one in the Zachary Gagewood Mysteries. You would think that the thrill would fade by now, but every time I publish a new book, it still feels as amazing as when I first published The Colors of Love and Autumn nine years ago.

There’s something about seeing the online listings on Amazon, showing your latest book for sale. Many authors just write the books, but I go a step further and design the covers, too. For me, there is only one reason a book could fail, and it would be because I failed. I can’t blame a stranger for designing a rotten cover. Seeing that finished work on display on a computer screen gives me an amazing feeling inside.

Holding it in my hands will be the next thrill, as it’s one thing for a computer to say you’re published but quite another to hold the proof yourself. A short while ago, I ordered some copies to sell (with one copy set aside for my library). I can always count on some of the folks with the Shawano Area Writers buying a copy, as I’ve enticed them for months with a delicious tale of murder.

When I first made the choice to write a novel, I didn’t know where life would take me. Would I be able to get it published? Was the novel going to be the only one? Was it going to be a brilliant success or an indication that everyone was lying to me when they told me I was a brilliant writer?

I might not be like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, where I can just focus on writing books and not have to worry about a constant paycheck, but I’m still in decent shape. My long-form writing didn’t end with one book, and today, there are plenty of choices—mystery novels, romance tales taking place in rustic locations, vampires getting freaky with witches, mortals falling in love with spirits and more.

Here’s one more tease of Creampuff of the County to entice you to get the book:

Zachary pulled his Jeep up to the blue apartment building where his best friend, Kevin Porter, lived. The two had been roommates for a long time, until Kevin’s discovery that he had HIV caused him to leave town for two years to find himself. By the time Kevin came back, Zachary had already moved in with his sweetheart, Newell Krueger. Kevin had stayed with Joshua Callahan, a mutual friend, for a while, but decided two months ago to get his own place.

Zachary unloaded a cardboard box with “KEVIN” scrawled on it with black marker. When Kevin left town, he’d left most of his stuff behind. Zachary had kept it in storage after he and Newell moved in together, and Kevin, ever the procrastinator, had been dragging his feet for months about reclaiming his stuff.

Climbing the stairs to the third floor because the elevator was out of order—and had been since Kevin moved in—Zachary fished in his pockets for the spare key to Kevin’s apartment, number sixteen. He turned the key and walked into the living room. The first thing he noticed were clothes strewn about. That was not surprising, as Kevin had never been much for cleaning up after himself. Then Zachary noticed a pair of black leather pants draped off the flat-screen television. As far as he knew, Kevin had never owned leather pants.

As Zachary pondered what the pants meant, the bedroom door opened, and Kevin walked out, absentminded and quite naked, his scarlet body hair visible for all to see. Zachary yelped and covered his eyes with the box, which caused Kevin to jump back in surprise.

“Zach! What are you doing here?” Kevin scrambled behind the couch to hide his nudity.

Fighting to get what he’d seen out of his head, Zachary replied, “You asked me to bring over some of your stuff from storage, remember?”

“Yeah, but I thought you were coming by at noon.”

Zachary set the box on the floor and pointed to the clock on the wall. “It is noon.”

Kevin looked over and whistled. “You’re right. It is. I must have lost track of the time.”

Zachary laughed nervously. “Obviously.”

Kevin pointed to the recliner. “Would you mind tossing me my blue jeans? Then we can put an end to the awkwardness.”

Taking great pains not to look in Kevin’s direction, Zachary grabbed the pants and blindly tossed them toward his friend. “It’s been a long time since you flashed me Big Red.”

Kevin sighed. “I really didn’t mean for you to see me naked, buddy. My mind must be foggy.”

“It’s all right. Maybe I should have knocked first instead of letting myself in with the key.”

“Oh, no!” Kevin protested as he stood up, now wearing the jeans. “I told you, man. You’re my best friend. Mi casa es su casa.”

Zachary could still feel his face radiate with embarrassment. “Well, your casa apparently has a clothing-optional policy. Next time I’ll text you or call or something.”

Kevin chuckled. “This really was embarrassing, even for us. I mean, it’s not the first time either one of us has seen the other naked, but it’s the first time since we stopped being roommates.”

“I’m just glad you clarified which pants you wanted. I saw those black leather ones and was trying to figure out when you’d bought leather pants.”

Kevin shuffled his feet. “Well…”

Kevin didn’t get the chance to finish his thought as the bedroom door opened again, and another man walked out, also naked and oblivious to Zachary’s presence.

“Hey, babe. Should I cook you up some biscuits and gravy?” The man gently kissed Kevin’s cheek and brushed it. Then he noticed Zachary and scrambled to hide behind Kevin. “I see we have company.”

Zachary smiled, the only thing he could do considering all the absurdity. “Hey, there. I’m Zach, Kevin’s friend. So, I take it you’re part of Kevin’s ‘bible study’?”

The man smirked. “Well, one of us was down on his knees.”

Kevin elbowed the naked visitor. “This is David. He runs a barber shop down in Marion.”

David pointed to the television. “Hey, mate. Would you mind throwing me my pants?”

“I feel like I should be working the floor at JCPenney,” Zachary said as he retrieved the black leather pants, relieved that he knew where they belonged, and tossed them to David. He turned to Kevin. “Definitely going to call beforehand next time.”

Kevin shrugged. “Well, it’s not like you expected to find me with company.”

“Naked, ripped company,” Zachary quipped.

“So, how’d everything go at the fairgrounds?”

“Well, I think my theme for the day must be orgasms, because Agnes Portman—sweet, little, blue-haired Agnes Portman—sampled one of Fletcher Burgess’ creampuffs and almost started singing, ‘Oh, Sweet Mystery of Life.’”

Kevin bit his lip, clearly trying to suppress a giggle. “So, you’re just interrupting intimate moments all over the place. Is Newell not giving you enough attention?”

Zachary rolled his eyes. “Moving on. I stopped by the commercial building, and Gwendolen’s in overdrive getting the booth ready. She really wants to make this mobile bookstore thing work.”

“It’s a good idea. You can get anything else you want at a county fair, so why not books?”

“True. I just don’t want her setting her expectations too high and then get disappointed if things don’t work out.”

Kevin shook his head. “Zach, I swear you always do this.”

Zachary was taken aback. “Do what?”

“Feel the need to protect everybody, for one thing. Also, sometimes you act like others around you thrive best when you come up with the grandiose ideas.”

“I do? Really?”

“Let Gwendolen handle this. Either she soars like an eagle, or she goes splat like a coyote.”

David cleared his throat as he straightened out the green T-shirt he’d just put on. “Sorry to have to run, Kevin, but it looks like you and your friend have plans, and I don’t want to be in the way.” He kissed Kevin on the cheek, and then he shook Zachary’s hand. “It was nice meeting you. Maybe we can all get together some time—you and your sweetheart, Kevin, me and my husband.”

Zachary smiled and shook David’s hand, although he felt like running from the room after he heard David say “husband.” “Looking forward to it. Kevin has my contact information.” As soon as David was out the door, Zachary turned to Kevin, the smile still frozen on his face. “Did you know he had a husband?”

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