Without me the literary industry would not exist: the publishers, the agents, the sub-agents, the sub-sub agents, the accountants, the libel lawyers, the departments of literature, the professors, the theses, the books of criticism, the reviewers, the book pages - all this vast and proliferating edifice is because of this small, patronised, put-down and underpaid person.
Artificial Gods and Real Authors
My third book, Artificial Gods, was released this week. Along with some praise, someone asked what it is like to have published three books. I had to admit, it is uncomfortably underwhelming.
When my first book was accepted by Double Dragon Publishing, I was beside myself. I could not believe the email was an acceptance at first, so used to rejections was I. I had written and rewritten We Shadows so often that the idea of finally releasing it from my grip made me a bit queasy. Within a few months of publication, it was contracted for a SyFy Channel miniseries that has yet to go anywhere, so I felt a real sense that my life as an author teetered on finally beginning in earnest. My publisher compared it to the BBC series "Being Human", which I had not seen but which showed a keen insight to my marketability. Soon, my name would be known. Any moment, the right person would happen across my book and then I would be a Real Author (the definition of which is not clear to me, but must be something other than what I am at this moment).
I had finished the majority of Danse Macabre by the time We Shadows was released. It needed revision, but thematically, very little was added to the book by that point. I hoped that this sequel would further tip the scales, but I had to admit that my sales were not as robust as my publisher had likely hoped and thus my royalty checks verged on embarrassments. If I dared to factor out how much money I earned per hour of work, I might have to snip pennies in half. More than that, it seemed as though I had to force Danse Macabre down the throats of friends and family, though those who read it generally said, "Oh, this is actually really good!" as though I got published by extortion rather than talent.
The ideas for Artificial Gods had been floating through my head since I first visited Pine Bush, New York. It is a book I knew I was meant to write, influenced by the innumerable books on the paranormal and UFOs I devoured as a kid. It is a book where I discovered a lot of my background plot had already been taken as fact and wove my fiction around that. I am proud of that book, all the more for how painstaking my editor, Patricia La Barabera, was in fact checking and proofreading. The cover art is atmospheric and intriguing. It is a book I would pick up and flip through and I believe it might provide a fresh entry point for many into the series. Overall, I believe it is a superior book to the first two.
Yet Artificial Gods represents only the next stepping stone to what is to come, not an end. Artificial Gods alone won't get me to a sort of success that would satisfy me. I cannot even be sure how much closer I am, but I know that I am closer. It does let me feel a bit more authentic, a bit less embarrassed when being identified by others as an author.
Despite all these arguable successes - most writers do not make it to having one book traditionally published, to say nothing of three and counting - all I think is that I have 72,000 words of my fourth book written. It may be better than any prior book or it just as likely could end up unreadable confusion. I won't let the latter happen, but I know I am endeavoring on a book that is more involved than any that came before, a book that will tie those stories together and provide a launching pad for what comes after (I have three books after this one either partially written or loosely plotted). I have no time to rest. My skill will have to be even greater, my research more in-depth, my cleverness sharper, my foreshadowing more subtle for me to be able to pull this off.
By now, I do have a much better handle on how to write a book. I have a reading, signing, or panel just about every month. I am getting less mortified with the concept of promoting myself, since I am worth promoting. I have accepted that simply writing books and handing them off to Double Dragon isn't going to be enough to get people to read them. I feel as though I am now out of kindergarten of Writers Elementary and am edging toward fourth grade. I have collegiate expectations, but I feel so far from there as to find it an almost unimaginable fairyland.
In a month, I am going to do panels at my first convention (at which I barely vended last year). I will have two more books available for sale than I did last year - which Amber jokes will make people think I can't be that good if I can turn them out so quickly. Neil Gaiman has given me personal (if electronic) advice on being a writer. Two of my colleges will have done pieces on me by year's end. I've had people recognize me from my writing. I have more Facebook fans I don't know than ones I do. I can see progress when I allow myself to take a step back, but it is hard not to obsess on metrics that predict my obscurity. I look daily at how long it has been since someone bought a copy of my books from Amazon. I cringe when my friends repost stories of self-published (and not particularly original) writers with over a hundred sales a month, though I know it is wrong to compare myself against someone in so different a situation - particularly as I am unable to set the price for my books. I doubt I even get the familial pity buys after We Shadows (which I readily admit deserves an author's revised edition when I renegotiate my contract once it is near expiration).
I do not know that there will ever come that day where I feel I have written enough to satisfy myself. Writing is such a component of my identity that allowing myself to concede that my writing - both as an abstract and a specific piece - might somehow be good enough sounds like defeat or stagnation, even if I can be sure that my unpublished self a few years ago would find this attitude brattish and insufferable. Perhaps it is better for me, though, to never feel as if I've done enough because it drags me on to further attempts at satisfaction.
Soon in Xenology: The Discontinuity. The Ship of Theseus.