If Lies Were Cats…

‎”You will never get the crowd to cry Hosanna until you ride into town on an ass.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Anyone who has ever dealt with the public, on any level, will appreciate this post. Why? Because when you are in the public eye, you’re toast if you don’t watch what you say and do. But, this is a catch 22 because on that same token, what good is exposure and popularity if it’s based on a falsehood?

What good is it to have fans (can I use that word? I don’t think I can, let’s say ‘readers’ instead) if they don’t like you for you? I sound like an afterschool special now and it makes me wanna yack, but really…what good is it? For example, what purpose is there in toning down the prologue in Son of Ereubus, when a large portion of the book has violence and mayhem? It would be nothing but false promises.

 As an author, our public appearance, IS linked to our writing, just like a prologue’s tone is linked to the rest of the book. What do we want to portray? What do we want to promise? 

But how seriously do we take this? How seriously SHOULD we take this? I’ve often joked about being a publicist’s worst nightmare since 99% of the stuff that comes out of my mouth is filter free. So, do I button that mouth and mind my manners for the good of my career? I’ve been told to. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve set several of my posts to private soon after publishing them. This is why. I haven’t changed my mind on any of my previously stated opinions.

Now, before you go thinking that I give a damn what other people think (I don’t, just for the record), you should know that I am only debating this issue because my actions affect those who have invested time and money into my career (my publisher, for example) and I want to be fair to them. Past that…anyone else who gets offended by what I say can take comfort in the fact that I have two cheeks (nothing better than variety) they can choose between when they kiss my ass.

Part of the problem with deciding whether to keep soap on hand or not (to clean your mouth and your public appearance) is that you’ll hear such drastic differences in opinion on this. Some people will tell you, “To hell with the world, be yourself!” Others will say, “Your career and therefore your livelihood depends on how others see you. If you want to succeed, you have to play the game.” It all makes me wonder what people really think—who they really are—because at the very least, a fraction of society, MUST be pretending.

I’m currently undecided on what to do from here. Do I continue with the fire and sarcasm? Do I curb the enthusiasm and start being politically correct? I shared a meaningless joke on facebook and apparently shocked more than a few folks (really guys?) hence the reason for this blog post (that and my sweet & talented author friend Michelle Davidson Argyle wrote a post on a similar issue here that got me thinking).

 It’s funny to me that a good majority of people will respect and appreciate brazen sarcasm until it flows in their direction. You either like my sharp wit, or you don’t. I’m an equal opportunity offender: I don’t care who you are, or why you think you’re special. I’ve certainly had my rear-end handed to me on numerous occassions. Consider it a character-building experience.

This is a subject that will affect all of you writerly folk at some point, so even if you’re not published yet, you’d better start thinking about it now. I’ve been told that it can affect how agents and publishers see you when they are deciding whether or not to sign your work. Clearly it didn’t affect me all that much because I believe my publisher read through some rather snarky blog posts here at The Asylum, before signing me—though, I don’t know this for sure, you’d have to ask them.

Why is there a zombie picture to the right of this little rant? Well, what qualifies a zombie as a zombie?

No pulse
No brain
No sense of humor
No sense of taste (braaaaiiinnnss)
A tendency to eat other people for dinner
A tendency to repeat things
A tendency to mindlessly wander after people with brains 
A cold heart
Cold-blooded (OK, it’s more like jello…but you get the point)
Damn near impossible to discourage from attacking

Soooo…do I need to explain?

I think Scissor Sisters said it best, “It’s a bitch convincing people to like you. If I stop now you’ll call me a quitter. If lies were cats you’d be a litter.”

The Telling

“Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.”  ~Alfred Hitchcock

It’s interesting that, as an author, you learn things about yourself through reading and listening to how your readers interpret your work. For instance: I have always loved horror, but didn’t realize how much of it I’d put into Guardians until I read two reviews that highlighted the “brutal aesthetic” present in Son of Ereubus.

As author Anthony Pacheco put it, “On the surface, leave no doubt that Son of Ereubus is creepy as hell. I would not call it a horror book but there are many horror elements on display. Indeed, the level of creep is so persuasive that, like the inhabitants of the human world and their protectors, a reader gets used to it. There is a certain, brutal aesthetic to the plot.”

Though, my favorite line from his review is this one: “Garren is the anti-hero and even before he grasps the ugly horns of self-determination, he strangely becomes a sympathetic figure. How Chancellor made me feel pangs of sympathy for such an evil fuck, I have no idea.”

Ien Nivens, in his review at Berkshire Fine Arts, said this: “Stark brutality reigns on one side of that divide. The seat of power “reek[s] of sweat and grime” and more than a little gore. In Eidolon, a young man’s rite of passage is the taking of a soul, while a woman given in a chilling parody of marriage is rendered incapable of protest, her former allegiances juiced out of her, her private will severed from her body.”

Chilling parody of marriage—indeed it is. That phrase also had me smiling, because it meant that my intentions, and effort at carrying them out, had delivered. It’s in these moments, where you find yourself holding your breath, that the negative reviews and snide remarks and hardships of being a published author, become worth it. You send your baby out into the world and wonder if you’ve revealed enough—said enough—for your readers to see clearly the picture you were attempting to paint for them. You suspect that you used too much paint in some areas (and you probably did) and not enough in others. But in these wonderful, rare moments, the most important things have been seen and I’ve never felt joy like that before.

There was a scene in particular that concerned me, that I remained tight-lipped about, because I wondered if anyone would understand why it was even there (a well-meaning beta reader had told me it was pointless and to take it out). And then Ien stated this, “When Duncan takes the stage, very near the end of Son of Ereubus, to expose not only Garren’s depravity (which we’ve witnessed from the very beginning) but the cost of it in wrenching human terms, we take the full brunt of Chancellor’s integrity as a novelist of purpose. She delivers a blow to the viscera before she offers her hand again–open this time–and hauls us to our senses and our feet to remind us that there’s business to attend to yet.”

I teared up like a junior high girl who’d just been asked to dance.

And it’s these things that I cling to as I find that my world—the real one—has changed. Vivian Beck warned writers to savor the days they spent writing for themselves. She was right. More than I would have imagined and more than I care to detail here, publicly. But, let me add to that warning: Spend this time, the days and months, and years, before publication, finding your center. Discover the real reason for your writing. Don’t just savor the days, catalog them. File them so that you can go back and pull from them what you’ll need when your days are no longer at your sole discretion.

The stories were never really yours to begin with, but the telling…the telling is for a time. There is more than a little magic in this. There is more than a little utility in this. You are packing your bags, filling them with everything you think you’ll need for the journey ahead. If you’re wise, and I know you are, you’ll remember to take care of yourself and not those you intend on meeting down the road. If you don’t, it will make for a lighter carry-on, but trust me—please—when I tell you that you’ll regret it once you get there. Wherever there is for you.

To expand on the analogy of our work being our children, you’ve got to consider both of you in order to be a good parent. If you don’t bring the things you need along, then how can you expect to care for your child? On the same token, if you bring nothing to nurture your child, how will it flourish? You rely on each other. Are there times in your life where your writing means everything to you? It works both ways. Don’t ever, ever, forget that.

 There are some who would try their hardest to convince you that only readers matter, and that a work is nothing without them (there are moments after publication where this thought beckons once again). But, this is not so. Too many authors wrote prolifically during their lifetime, only to perish before their work was ever read by a single reader. Are they any less an author because of this? Any less a poet? Of course not. The validity of the work doesn’t correlate to the validation of the public. After all, woe is the writer who mounts their merit on the masses…

Revel in the telling…because if you’re destined to see your work in print, there will come a time when you will long for that blessed exclusivity.

A woman who has been trying to get pregnant for years, is alone in her bathroom, waiting on a little blank square to tell her whether there is life inside of her. Does the pregnancy begin when the test confirms it? When she tells the father? The world? No. The recognition has nothing to do with the life force at all.

So, while you are waiting on that test…revel in knowing the outcome. Revel in being what you know you are—what grows inside of you. Revel in the telling…because saying it aloud to yourself…I am a writerI have a story to tell…is so very different than saying it to another person. And that’s a moment you can never get back.