There are some obvious nightmares: dreams where you’re chased by big monsters, or dreams where you wake up and someone is standing over you with a knife, or dreams where someone threatens to kill your puppy. For me, these dreams tend to be dark in tone and texture; they happen at night, and they’re often stripped of most of their colors, pulled down to a very basic color palette. (Those who say you can’t dream in color are simply wrong. I do dream in color, and sometimes color has been material to the unwinding of my dream.) You wake up from these dreams with a pounding heart, glad to be back in reality.
Then there are subtle nightmares. They start out like a regular dream: the full color spectrum. Nobody’s chasing me. Nobody’s threatening me or my loved ones. Instead, they start out so subtly normal that I think nothing of it. For instance, in one of my recurring subtle nightmares, I could be anywhere: walking through the town where I grew up, applying for a job, checking the mail. And then something happens: Maybe someone comes up to me and hands me a notice, or maybe it arrives in the mail, or maybe someone makes a phone call at the job where I’ve applied. For whatever reason, the nightmare part starts like this: “Well, Courtney, we just noticed that you never took the Public Health segment in high school. You’ll have to go back and finish it, or we’re going to rescind all your degrees.” And then, before I know what is happening, I’m being pushed back into high school, I’m turning seventeen again, I’m back among all those people, back when people cared more about the name on the jeans pocket than they did about what you might have to say…. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
I wake up, my heart pounding, glad to be back in reality where I desperately need to do laundry and I’ve still forgotten to pay that parking ticket, but by God, at least I don’t have to go back to high school. This is not very fun, as you can imagine. The subtle nightmares are in many ways more insidious, because they feel so much more real.
In any event, this is all by means of saying that in the last week or so, I’ve developed another subtle nightmare. And, yes, it will make you think I’m slightly neurotic as authors go, but hello. I should think you’d have figured that out by now. In any event, my agent, who is wonderful, has been sending me weekly sales reports gleaned from Bookscan. And those sales reports tell me how many copies of my book sold (although Bookscan is not complete, it is the only thing I have, and so I cling to it with irrational force) throughout the US. So far, the only reports I’ve gotten have been reports about the anthology–and I’ve been fairly blase about that in a sense, because it’s not one-hundred percent all the way mine. To be honest, most people bought it because it had the words “Mary Balogh” on the front, and I am totally cool with that.
But this… this one is all mine. And that makes it five hundred times scarier. In my subtle nightmare, I open my Bookscan report, and peer, frightened, at the number.
The number changes. Sometimes it is 6. Sometimes it is 7. It is never any greater than 8. And I say, “Wait. I bought every last mother-loving one of those copies!”
So yes. That’s my current neurosis. I don’t see how authors back in the day survived, not knowing if anyone at all had purchased their book for months and months and months.
I sometimes think that these subtle nightmares are my subconscious’s way of making me feel good about reality by managing expectations. Yes, I may be behind at work; but hey, at least I don’t have to go back to high school! And yes, maybe I am getting far too angsty about meaningless numbers on Amazon–but at least more than 6 people will have bought my book (I hope–I actually will not see these magic numbers until, maybe, tomorrow, so there is one more evening of absolute neurotic panic).
In any event, if you bought my book, thank you for saving me from my worst neurosis. Thank you.