Flowers for the Dead, by Barbara Copperthwaite
Looking at my proof copies was a perfect moment

The box seemed to grow bigger and more ominous as I looked at it. I wanted to open it. With all my heart I did. But something momentarily held me in place….

Sod it. I grabbed the scissors and scored through the tape. Flung open the box, pulled impatiently at the crumpled brown paper lying within, sending it flying across the room.

And then I breathed out, long and slow, as I looked at the treasure held within.

My book. My baby. My second, precious novel. The paperback proof version nestled inside the anonymous cardboard box. A grin flashed across my face, then disappeared as rapidly as lightening as I picked up the book.

No matter how many time I check and double check, and triple check (and let’s be honest, check a whole lot more) the draft version, pressing publish is always a little nerve-wracking. Now I was faced with the physical book, I started checking it for mistakes, a stern parent waiting to catch out their child.

I twisted the book this way and that in my hands. The front cover looked incredible, the high gloss finish showing off the superb artwork done by Paul Humphreys; the texture of the lettering looked just like a weathered tombstone, just as I’d wanted. The spine was satisfyingly thick. Across the back rose petals scattered across it, just like on the front, only from a single bloom, framing the words.

There were no spelling mistakes, no blurry bits, everything was perfect. Inside was the same story.

Without even realising it, my grin had not only returned but grown wider. Is there any prouder moment in an author’s life than seeing their book for the first time? Finishing the first draft is always a wonderful moment, a feeling of real achievement and joy. It is always tempered, though, with the knowledge that there are many things that need to be fixed, whole sections to be re-written, or deleted completely, or added. When the final draft is done, there comes a true sense of pride. But the next step is editing, and I am always keen to get on with it. By the time editing is done, followed by layout and formatting, I feel exhausted and slightly befuddled by having spent so many months staring at the same words again and again.

Looking at my book for the first time in physical form is a perfect pause. A moment of stillness in the flurry of activity that has gone before and will come afterwards, thanks to the publicity drive.

There it is, in my hands: the thing over which I have obsessed and despaired and elated. It’s real. It’s finished. There is nothing more I can do to it.

Now, as I hold FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD in my hand, I smile and enjoy this perfect moment.

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