Wednesday, June 13, 2012
So my tweeple, Logan, sent me the sweetest (and most intimidating) tweet. He told me he "measured time by when my books came out."
See what I mean? About sweet and intimidating?
Because it's like marking time with holidays (and the reasons parents always go into heart failure as the winter solstice rolls around.) If the thing you're doing produces a memory, and people are really looking forward to that memory, it had better be A DAMNED GOOD MEMORY!
But the fact is, I've found I do the same thing. When a book comes out, I become obsessed with checking up on it. Is it selling? More importantly, do people like it? If they don't like it, WHY don't they like it? And is it something I can live with? (By the way? Those last questions are usually asked three to four times a day as I'm editing the book. Why will people dislike this one? Would I change it? The fact is, before I even submit the work to an editor, the answer to "Would I change it, even if I knew people would hate this part?" is "NO! It's my work, and I stand by it, DAMMIT!", right? You know, in case you all thought my spine really had drilled it's way out my ass and started burrowing to Australia. I just have to ask myself that question, or I can't be sure I'm putting my best work out there. However, good feedback or bad, it is nice to have your own suspicions about human reaction confirmed-- it means your perception of the universe is close to accurate.)
So either way, I mark my days by books. When my deadline is to finish one, when my deadline is to edit, and, of course, the excitement of release day, and the thrill of being read. I mean, that's where I spend my days, so I expect that to be how I mark my time.
But when someone else marks their time by my books? That is one hell of a responsibility. It IS. Remember the crappy birthday where you failed a test at school and the kids made fun of you and your parents got the restaurant wrong where you were supposed to go and all you got was socks? (Okay, even if you never had a birthday like that, can you imagine it?) Well, if I'm responsible for someone's big calendar day and I fuck that up, THAT feels AWFUL!
So yes. Even though I keep putting out books, and even though I'm getting more sanguine (and not in the hunt-you-down-and-kill-you way, either) about reviews and reviewers, I still stress about releasing a book. Yes, I know that some of my tropes (or my unorthodox treatment of them) will bother people. Yes, I know, no book can please everybody. Yes, I even know that some of the stuff I do as a writer (writing about pain, for example!) automatically eliminates potential audience. But when I make choices as an author, whether people love the choice or not, I ALWAYS worry about that choice being the best one I can possibly make for the characters and the theme. Hey, I don't even always like the things my people do, but if they're being true to their characters? Writers aren't kidding around when they say they have no choice. Characters really do dictate the course of a good work--and even if people don't like the character, nothing can or should change that.
And that goes for everything I write.
Last October, Mary Calmes and I had a horrifying realization. It shouldn't have caught us by surprise but it really did. We realized that the tiny (2000 words or less) short that we'd written for a Dreamspinner promotion was going to get rated on websites like GoodReads. Oh my God! It was free. It was promotional. It was short! (Nobody rates short fiction well. It's a truism of genre fiction as a whole.) Why would people go and rate it?
It didn't matter. They did. And Mary and I both cringed as we watched our SHORT stories take critical hits for no other reason than that they were short. The one consolation--and it has been my consolation during all critical hits--is that I had done my best work. Yes. You Can't Make an Omelet is just a playful short goofy piece of fiction, but I'd done my best on it, and so had Mary on her fiction piece.
It's one of those moments where you realize you have a responsibility to your craft, because part of your craft is connecting with human beings, and you want to treat your fellow humans in the best way possible. You know you can't please everybody-- it's like a family reunion. Somewhere out there is an uncle who is going to disapprove of your job (and let's face it, in my family, everybody disapproves of my job at the moment) and a cousin is going to disapprove of your politics and your parents are going to disapprove of how you raise your children--but you dressed everybody up in their Sunday best, made the kick ass potato salad, kissed and hugged everyone, even the people who are about to spend all day telling you you're a fuck-up, and you have done your best to connect with your kin in the most civilized way possible.
And just like a book release, you're going to be excited about the reunion, and apprehensive about it, and you're going to hope, really hope, that your beautiful, splendid children and perfect spouse will get the love and attention they deserve. (And, once again, this works for me, because my kids and husband are MUCH more popular at family reunions than I am. I'm sort of embarrassing, really.) Anyway-- THAT'S what it's like to mark your time by releasing a little bit of your soul into the public every so often.
So that brings us to Boxer Falls.
I love writing for Boxer Falls. I don't have a lot of time to do it, and my time seems to just get less and less available, but I love the idea of a collaborative effort. Boxer Falls is a serial soap opera, in which a different author writes different episode each week. There are stock characters and a LOT of sex and melodrama and angst and humor and basically, a lot of good writers showcased back to back, doing (I hope!) their best work.
So anyway-- yes. Sidecar is two long painful weeks away-- but on Friday? We've got Boxer Falls, and sometimes, between family reunions and birthdays and Christmases, there's a date to dinner and the movies--and it's still a special occasion.