Two letters. I've lost them. They’re gone. And the process of losing them turns me into something completely different. I speak of course of those pesky letters ‘u’ and ‘n’. The ones that used to sit in front of word ‘published’, acting like a dead weight on my hopes and ambitions.
‘Unpublished.’ It’s such a gloomy, dispiriting word. My copy of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary refuses to even allow it a definition of its own. It simply states (with a weariness that has no business being in a typeface), ‘see –UN2_’. Trailing back to –UN2_, we find a separate box devoted to it. The OED is pleased to announce that ‘This prefix has limitless applications in English. -UN2- conveys the absence of a quality. Just sayin’.’ OK, it doesn't really state the last two words. But it might as well.
Because it’s the published writer that interests everyone. The first question I get asked when people hear I am a writer is not, ‘What do you write?’ but, ‘Are you published?’ Here’s a selection of answers I've used to that second, difficult question:
10. I hope to be. (meaning: No.)
9. Trying to be! (meaning: No.)
8. Not yet. (meaning: No.)
7. Hopefully, I will be. (meaning: No.)
6. That’s what I’m trying to achieve. (meaning : No)
5. I’m actively pursuing publication (meaning: No.)
4. No, but I've won a few contests. (meaning: No.)
3. No, but I've won several contests. (meaning: No.)
2. No, but I've had a few full manuscript requests from agents. (Meaning: No.)
1. No, but I've got an agent. (Meaning: No.)
And however I dressed any of those answers up, they essentially meant the same thing, the ‘absence of a quality’ the OED states in its devastating simplicity. They meant, ‘No.’ I was unpublished.
But all that changed today and changed forever. Today, I got to trash the dreaded ‘u’ and ‘n’. Today, I became a published writer. From now on, when someone asks, ‘Are you published?’ I only need one word. ‘Yes.’ It will be a long, long time before I get tired of that reply. And today? Shrieking ‘Yes!’ a lot. But not in answer to any question. The dog looks bewildered, but she’ll get over it. Doubt if I will.
Note: The Fifth Knight can be found on Kindle Serials. At this time, only US customers can purchase the serialized format. The book will be released in complete format by Thomas & Mercer in 2013.