Friday, August 20, 2010

I Seel So Dirty

At first, my motives were very pure and even altruistic:  just post your book so you can get honest critiques and suggestions for improvement.

So, that's what I did.  And I felt good.  No, I was proud of myself.  I could see it now:  Mother Theresa would be having her agent get in touch with me, just so we could take a meeting, and all so she could find out how I do it; how I keep up this constant and tireless persona of humility and selflessness.  I know, I know--you're wondering the same thing.  It isn't easy being a martyr.  Every time some assbag author would write to me privately, begging a backing for their book in return for them backing mine, I would, with quite a swelled head, and righteous indignation in my fingertips, would write them back a blistering e-mail (it was so hot, I eventually had to have it lanced), chastising them for being so shallow, and how could they, and my favourite, "I don't resort to extortion."

Yep.  That oughtta do it.

The few days my book was there, I got compliments and suggestions that poured in by the screenful.  People who never read historical fiction were now telling me they were fans, and all because I had a brilliant pitch (something we'll discuss in later blogs and how you can do it, too), gorgeous cover and incredible flow to my writing.  Aw, you're so sweet, but really, it was nothing.  People who loved and wrote historical fiction all the time were telling me that I had nailed the dialogue of the period, I'd set up the scene and time period perfectly, and my characters, while feisty and fighting against class standing, were still likable and you wanted to root for them.

Then on Monday night, purely by accident, I hit the wrong menu button that ended up taking me to the home page and not my menu page.  Right there, on the front page of the HarperCollins web-site, was my book, The Gaslight Journal, sitting at Number 1 for the week's listings!  That's right, number 1.  I was stunned.  So stunned was I, that I did the Bugs Bunny rubbing of my eyes just to make sure I wasn't seeing things.  (why he thought that always worked, I'll never know)  I was so excited, that I did a screen capture of it, cropped it, resized it and sent it in an e-mail to my folks for proof.  NOW let dad call me an idiot.  Well, he still called me an idiot, but now he's at least proud of my idiotic accomplishments.

Then last night, I went there again, just to sneak another peek, to make sure it was real, and there, shining in the number 1 spot again, was my little book.  Oh, the joy my heart felt, swelling it to nearly 1 1/2 times its size.

Today, I got greedy, and went back for more.  Oh, the feeling of sneaking into my browser at 5 a.m. when no one else's up and looking.  Knowing the rest of the world is asleep and you're sitting there, in your footie pajamas, alone and all sneaky.  I had to have one more peek.

I'm not ashamed to say, that fame is a fleeting, bitch of a person who rips out your egotistical heart and stomps on it with both gold, spiked heels.  Not only was my book no longer there, it wasn't even in the top five anymore.  I did the Bugs Bunny thing with my eyes again, but this time, it didn't help.  It did not materialise my book from thin air.

Now.  The next part is crucial to the denouement of the story, so pay attention.  Suddenly, and without forethought or warning, I began to care that my book wasn't in the listings anymore!  What was happening to me?  I felt this sinking in my heart, this feeling of, "Oh, crap, how do I get it back," and all the while trying to be altruistic and feel the right thing:  many people before me have said to never get caught up in your own press; never allow the accolades be the reason you write; never try and make fame happen.  Just do it for the sake of the work.

But...but...isn't it okay to care, even a little??  Shouldn't your book be a thing of beauty that makes you proud and makes you want to show it off to others?  I mean, if we look at it closer, isn't that the reason we write a flawless, good-grammar, right-punctuation, no-plot-holes book to begin with?  So people will like it and we can be proud of what we do?

Sure.  And my feelings were normal--I realise that.  And they were harmless.  I got excited that my book was up there, because it surprised me completely, and I got sad when it wasn't anymore.  The trouble comes in caring so much that you allow it to make you quit writing completely.

Now, I will admit, that for the last hour, I've been over there, backing every book I could find, in the hopes that someone might return the favour.  Suddenly, I'd abandoned my stringent principles of altruism, for the cheap thrill of another rise to #1.  I don't know if it will work, but as I said in the beginning of this ride, I'm willing to share my experience--both good and bad--with you guys and see what comes of it.  I know that I might still have been over there backing, "Dolly's Secret Diet to Bigger Boobs" if my browser hadn't crashed.  Thank God for crappy Windoze.


  1. At least you got a taste, its good to be hungry

  2. A comment from my friend and horror author, Robert W. Walker:

    The taste of it sure is wonderful, and I certainly know where you are coming from as I have been striving for the gold ring since childhood in this crappy business that is more roulette wheel than business, and now I am ready to settle for the brass ring. Have mellowed out a great deal; went a good deal nuts with my first publication, of course, as is the right of every author but now my philosophy is "If it comes, it comes and I will not kill my love of live or others for the fleeting thing called success" and it helps to be proud of your work in the way Van Gogh was proud of paintings he had no idea anyone would ever give a shit about.

    Your writing right here in the blog dispalys, Carla, that you have a wonderful felicity with words and a care for accuracy and honesty. Keep up the good work and you want to REWARD yourself with a pat on the back and your favorite guilty pleasure for the success you have achieved in so short a time.

    You can absolutely use my name.

  3. I know this feeling all too well...You get internet notoriety just to have the rug pulled out from underneath of you the next day! I like to think of it as a way to see how much I depend on others' i like to inflate myself with the idea that I am independant and self sufficent...but the internet always squashes those hallucinations. Regarding the process of bartering shit that you don't even like just for the sake of getting your ego's not real! I would rather have 25 people who actually read and like the book than 100 people who claim to like and read it but have never actually even opened the cover or read the synopsis...this popularity contest thing drives me crazy...always mixed feelings like I want to get my novel out there but do I have kiss ass and pretend to like other peoples crap in order to do so? I have to give you a big congrats that you completed writing it. The thing is, yes do the work for the work itself but we all want to be recognized and appreciated for the work we have done whether we are an artist or an office clerk. You have done a wonderful job and I appreciate you...was that cheesy? I haven't mastered the art of a compliment yet...I am working on it though. You rock!

  4. Hello Patricia, and thanks for chiming in! I love it when folks offer their viewpoints.

    Yeah, I didn't realise just how quickly notoriety on the net could be there one minute and gone the next. Lesson learned.

    I agree with you on the bartering. I have NO CLUE why it doesn't matter to some if their book is any good or not! Isn't that the point of being there? At least, I thought it was. What can you stand to gain, if people blow smoke up your butt with flowery words, and back your book, but only in the hopes that you back theirs as well? The entire purpose of the site is to get solid and constructive critiques so you can IMPROVE your work. And with those improvements, come a possible ride up to the editor's desk. But if you haven't improved with the suggestions being given to you, I don't think it matters one whit whether it lands on an editor's desk or not--if it's crap, then it's going to land in the slush pile like the rest, right?

    I don't understand people sometimes.